5Qs w/ Professional Sous Vide Chef Jonas Frei of Lucerne, Switzerland

Photo by Claudia Link

Chef Jonas Frei is a Swiss certified chef with more than 15 years in kitchens in San Francisco and Switzerland. Chef Frei is a sous vide pioneer with seven years experience in executive chef roles at some of the best restaurants in the world. He is owner of Artisan Cuisinier —an experimental cooking and teaching company. Chef Frei has given more than 2500 lecture hours instructing other chefs. He is a PolyScience distributor in Switzerland and is a content maker for the Sous Vide °Celsius iOS app.

Question #1: When did you first learn of sous vide cooking?

In 2002 I heard about the immersion circulator method while working in California. A chef friend mentioned that Thomas Keller was using laboratory equipment (a PolyScience immersion circulator) for cooking butter poached lobster. I then tried to imitate that technique with a pot and a thermometer. 
There are quite a few old-schoolers in Switzerland who took part in Sous Vide experimentation in the 70’s and as a result, vacuum-packing fennel and then cooking it in a combi-steamer became standard practice. These recipes are taught in culinary schools and apprenticeship. At the time I was not particularly amazed. I only began to understand when I ordered my own circulator in 2010.

Question #2: What sous vide equipment do you use?

I distribute PolyScience products and teach Sous Vide workshops. Therefore, I usually keep 3 PolyScience Chef Series and one Classic Series at hand. I also have two Anova Precision cookers for testing the bluetooth connection of the Sous Vide °Celsius iOS app. I use chamber vacuum sealers by ERME Swiss vacuum technologies and Thermometers and probes by ETI temperature instruments.

Questions #3: What was the first thing you ever made sous vide?

Fennel. Lobster. Upon receiving my first circulator, I tried poached egg at 62°C for 1 hour.

Question #4: What was your biggest sous vide mistake?

I constantly make mistakes. The problem is usually that I cook things too long or too hot. Beef shoulder at 58°C for 96h, is a dry mess. Goat leg at 60°C for 48h. Besides looking ugly, the meat falls apart when trying to finish it on a grill. A few too many bay leaves in a 32h pork neck, taste gnarly.

Question #5: What was your biggest sous vide success?

I enjoy introducing people to the technique. It makes me happy to share the excitement and be helpful to others. Eggs, egg based emulsions, fish, steaks — they are all good. Naturally, I am fan of ribs, cooked long and slow. And vegetables too. I remember this event where I handed out Sous Vide carrots. Young carrots, that had been picked from the garden. You had never tasted a carrot like this before.