BY MICHELLE THOMAS
Chef, Washington Redskins
The industrial kitchen of a professional football team may not be the first place you’d expect to find a chef of Jon Mathieson’s caliber. An alumnus of some of the nation’s most lauded restaurants—such as New York’s Le Bernardin and the now-closed Lespinasse—Mathieson joined the Washington Redskins as executive chef in 2013. He brought 25 years of classical training and culinary talent to his new role, alongside an aim to introduce the athletes to a menu both nutritious and flavorful, and done on a large scale. His approach included outfitting the team kitchen at the Redskins training facility in Virginia with sous vide circulators, among other updates. We chatted with Mathieson to find out more on how he incorporates sous vide cuisine into the menu.
Sous-Vide: You’ve cooked at such high-end restaurants as Lespinasse, Le Bernardin, and Michel. How has fine dining influenced your current work with the Redskins?
Jon Mathieson: We take a high-end mindset or approach to cooking for our family. The dishes are very different, but we still treat the product and process with the same precision.
SV: How is sous vide today the same or different from how you’ve used it in the past?
JM: It is very different now; there are better circulators, bags, vacuum sealers, and combi-ovens than when I first used the sous‑vide method. Being more comfortable in the method, I take more chances with flavor components, such as more flavored salts and oils in the bag, and smoking the product before finishing in the circulator.
SV: What dishes do you like to cook sous vide for the athletes?
JM: The smoked turkey breast that we make for both lunch plates and deli sandwiches comes out amazing. After brining and smoking the turkey, we sous vide it until it’s perfectly tender and moist. I could eat it every day. I really enjoy how beautiful and flavorful albacore tuna, wahoo, and halibut are when cooked via sous vide, as well. They are fish that can be overcooked very easily and cooking it in the circulator makes it perfect every time.
SV: How does the sous vide technique benefit your operation?
JM: We are able to get a very consistent product, even when we cook in large quantities. When I sous vide 80 pounds of New York strip loins, I know they will be a perfect medium temperature that the players enjoy. Or if I sous vide 60 pounds of chicken breast, I know they will be tender and flavorful every time.
SV: Any surprise hits or fails for the players?
JM: We tried to sous vide white asparagus for the players one day. They weren’t too pumped about it. I remember they kept asking how we got the color to disappear. Surprisingly, they loved our veal cheeks. It took a lot of convincing to get them to even try it at first. Now we have players ask us every day when we are going to prepare them again. We add the cheeks into pasta to make them a little more accessible instead of serving them in a dish as the main component.
SV: What’s your best tip for a home chef who might want to try cooking sous vide for a crowd?
JM: Give yourself plenty of time to complete the process. Maybe even start a day or two ahead to make sure the product has enough time to be cooked to a desired texture and temperature.