- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

We don’t live in a vacuum, but thanks to Bruno Goussault, we can cook in one.

Mr. Goussault, chief scientist for Cuisine Solutions in Alexandria, displayed his contribution to modern cooking during a tour of the company’s factory, which he designed.

In one room, hundreds of chicken breasts are seared before being sealed in plastic. In another, they are heated in giant vats of water and gradually chilled. Welcome to the science of flavor. Welcome to “sous vide.”

“Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum.” The ingredients are cooked in airtight plastic bags in water at unusually low temperatures. Cooking times can vary from one hour to two days, depending on the product.

Because the food is sealed, it maintains its structural integrity. The juices do not leak, and all the flavor is trapped inside.

Mr. Goussault, 63, has been a pioneer of the cooking method, which has been known for more than 30 years. “He’s sort of the founding father of this,” said Thomas Gregg, president of Cuisine Solutions.

The company was founded in 1972 as a wholesale producer of French bread. In 1987, the Culinary Division was opened for research and development of frozen products. Cuisine Solutions began offering food products throughout the United States in 1989.

Mr. Goussault first tried sous vide in France, with the help of other chefs.

“In 1980, we worked with Joel Robuchon, the best chef in France,” Mr. Goussault said. Back then, he worked in the restaurant setting, directly with chefs. They were experimenting with new ways to prepare meat.

Today, he conducts his experiments in a lab but still finds time to train renowned chefs who are eager to learn his methods. He holds advanced degrees in both economics and food technology.

As Mr. Goussault explains it, “all the product is kept in the bag.”

The process requires food to be cooked at precise temperatures, monitored by a computer system designed to match the heating and cooling process to a curve set by Mr. Goussault.

“Fifty years ago, you have no notion [of temperature] in the kitchen,” he said. Now, because of substantial scientific progress, chefs have access to a new level of precision. Hence the desire by so many world-class chefs to learn from Mr. Goussault about sous vide.

Chef and restaurateur Michel Richard is among those trained in sous vide by Mr. Goussault.

“He’s a guru of sous vide,” Mr. Richard said of Mr. Goussault.

Mr. Richard, who owns Citronelle, a restaurant on M Street, was named Best Chef of the Year by Capital Restaurant and Hospitality in 2002.

For those who prefer the timeless art of not having to cook, Mr. Goussault works with Cuisine Solutions to develop a line of frozen products. The company sells these to airlines, the military and retailers, including Costco.

Travel & Leisure magazine has named Mr. Goussault one of the 35 top innovators changing travel in the 21st century.

Experimenting with temperature to create the perfect recipe is only one part of Mr. Goussault’s job. At Cuisine Solutions, where he has worked for 17 years, he also is responsible for quality assurance and safety.

“We test one portion of each product,” he said.

The growing popularity of sous vide has drawn into question the chef’s role in the kitchen. What was once considered an art is now becoming a matter of science. Some chefs are resistant to the change, fearing that the creative element of their profession will disappear.

Mr. Goussault said that fear is unwarranted. At Cuisine Solutions, chefs decide the appearance and taste of the product, then Mr. Goussault determines the temperature and cooking time necessary.

Before being vacuum-sealed, the product may be grilled or seared in order “to have good presentation.”

“The taste of the product is very important,” Mr. Goussault said.

At the end of the day, it is up to the chefs to determine whether Mr. Goussault has accomplished his job. Cuisine Solutions invites all of its employees to taste new products and give advice.

“If you have a problem, people can talk with Jean-Pierre or me,” he said, referring to the vice president of plant operations. “And the last word is for the chefs.”



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