Valve’s Gabe Newell has personally invested in startup company ChefSteps, which recently unveiled its Joule cooking appliance.
What does Gabe Newell do when he isn’t running Valve or working on projects that aren’t Half-Life 3? Apparently, he supports an up-and-coming cooking appliance and appears in its parent company’s commercials. Newell has personally invested in ChefSteps, an up-and-coming startup company, after meeting its creators two years ago. That’s support has given ChefSteps the ability to hire more staff, and create the Joule – an immersion circulator used for sous vide cooking.
It all began when Newell purchased an auction item at his son’s middle school: A dinner for ten prepared by Chris Young and Grant Crilly. Newell quickly hit it off with the pair, who were in the process of launching their startup company ChefSteps. “They talked to me like a scientist, like an engineer, and this isn’t how I thought people in the cooking world talked,” Newell said. “These guys are cooking nerds. And the science is super interesting. Their understanding of what’s going on in the experience of cooking resonated with my experiences in the world of creating entertainment.”
It certainly didn’t hurt that the food Young and Crilly produced was delicious either. “They came over and it was easily the best food I’d ever had,” Newell said. “Spectacular in its design and execution.”
Newell ended up making a personal loan to ChefSteps to help them get started. While he’s not an owner and has no shares in the company, he does keep appraised of how the organization is developing. “He never told us how to run the company,” Young said. “Every six months he’d say, ‘What problems are you having, what are you trying to solve?’ Gabe is known as a guy who believes you will be successful if you focus on solving problems for a real community of people.”
So what’s this Joule appliance ChefSteps created? It’s meant to aid in sous vide cooking, a process popularized in France and the US in the 1960s. It works by sealing food in a plastic bag and immersing it in water heated to a precise, even temperature. This cooks the food slowly and gently, while preserving any fats or flavoring. ChefSteps created the Joule to help with the water heating process after finding similar appliances to be frustrating and cumbersome. It can even be controlled from an app instead of having to fidding with dials on the device – you just insert it into water and it’s ready to go.
Mostly though, I’m intrigued to hear about Newell’s non-gaming interests – too often we get in the habit of thinking developers and publishers are nothing more than their jobs. That being said, I’m still adding the Joule to my of “things Valve made instead of working on Half-Life 3“ list.