An expert in both kitchen appliances and business development, Robert (Bob) Lamson has worked for decades to improve the cooking experience for home chefs.
Lamson, who is a cum laude graduate of Yale and holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Washington, started out working in product and business development for the Juiceman juice extractor. From there, he moved to the Breadman, an automatic breadmaker.
After Breadman launched, Lamson decided to found his own business management consulting company, Attivo LLC. He worked with a number of different companies in both early and growth stages to help them with their business decisions.
A few years later, though, two nutritional physicians in California contacted Lamson to ask him to get back into the kitchen appliances business. They wanted help designing and manufacturing an affordable home sous vide machine, a device that would vacuum-seal food into plastic bags and cook it in a temperature-controlled water bath.
The doctors, Michael and Mary Eades, hired Lamson as president for their new company called Eades Appliance Technology (EAT), which they decided to base in Seattle. Through EAT, Lamson developed the SousVide Supreme, a countertop vide machine, which hit the market in 2009.
“A sous vide water bath heats the water much as a slow cooker or your stove burner would, only with much more precision,” Lamson explained. “It uses electronics to control the heating element in such a way as to maintain the desired cooking temperature within + 0.5° F of the set temperature. The advantages over the immersion circulator type [sous vide sticks], are that it is silent in operation, does not emit steam into the kitchen, [and] it is easy to clean.”
From his experiences with the Juiceman and Breadman, Lamson knew that consumers wanted instructional booklets for their kitchen gadgets, so he worked with the EAT team to publish four books on sous vide — Sous Vide Meat, Sous Vide Poultry, Sous Vide Gourmet and Sous Vide Holiday.
Since leaving EAT in 2012, Lamson has been “continuously involved with sous vide R&D focused upon new appliances.” Most recently, he was appointed COO of Creative Cuisine, a Seattle-based subsidiary of UK technology company Grant Instruments. He says the company will be introducing several new high tech sous vide appliance concepts over the next year.
Apart from his interest in businesses and cooking technology, Lamson is also an author. He co-wrote a book on defense economics, Beyond Guns and Butter, and, more recently, wrote a book on WWI genocide in Turkey, On the Monster’s Back. He is also on the board of Seattle’s Center for Wooden Boats.
Meet our new Geek of the Week, and continue reading for his edited answers to our questionnaire, including how he wants to create a pub featuring sous vide Italian food, bourbon, and live music.
What do you do, and why do you do it? I help build new and early stage businesses. I do it because it is both challenging and rewarding and a combination of artistic creativity and scientific discipline. Since 2008, I have been focused on sous vide cooking products and firms because sous vide is an exciting new arena. It is one of the most nutritional ways of cooking, and results in taste and texture that are difficult if not impossible to achieve any other way.
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Sous vide cooking has enormous long-term potential because it is one of the most nutritional, easy to learn and cost-efficient means of preparing food, and is still in its embryonic stage of business development in both commercial and domestic applications.
Where do you find your inspiration? I get my inspiration from those that I work with. A well-functioning team, where each individual fully understands and is committed to the mission, applies his/her talents accordingly, and is fully supportive of colleagues is not only successful, it is inspiring and fun! The Seattle Seahawks offer a sports example of this, and the same thing can be accomplished in business.
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Well, in today’s everyday world, clearly the answer is a computer, for obvious reasons. However, beyond that (and associated tablet and cell phone), my answer is a sous vide cooker! The reason is that it makes the preparation of meals much more interesting and varied and thus much more fun.
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? Presently Creative Cuisine LLC is a “virtual” business, meaning that we do not have a separate office. People are working from home and from the Grant facility in the UK, with communications by email and Skype. We also have people here in Seattle using Skype, cell phones, and a weekly meeting at a local restaurant at lunchtime or early evening to do business. This is greatly efficient for this kind of geographically dispersed business. It also allows me to use the sous vide cooker, vacuum sealer, etc. at home for the recipe experimentation and product development activity required by my job.
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Do not sacrifice head-clearing, leave-work-alone time off. Put vacation time on a calendar early in the year and commit to and stick to it. Demand for yourself a relaxing activity every day — an after work drink with friends, a workout, a movie. In Seattle it could also be paddle boarding, kayaking, or sailing. But whatever it is, insist on relaxation for yourself everyday. Creativity, energy, attitude all improve with this commitment.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows computer, plus Apple iPad and iPhone.
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Launch a pub called “Bob’s Bistro, Bourbon and Blues” featuring great sous vide prepared Italian cuisine, at least 50 different bourbons (and selective other drinks as well) and live blues music Wednesdays – Saturdays.
I once waited in line for … A Taj Mahal concert at Jazz Alley in Seattle
Your role models: Harry Rathbun, (deceased) Professor of Business and Law, Stanford. A supreme ‘about meaningful life’ mentor and living example.
Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks retired receiver. Incredibly talented, dedicated and tough as nails — and humble about it all!
Greatest Game in History: Super Bowl January 2014 Seahawks vs. Denver
First Computer: System/370
Current Phone: iPhone 4s. (I like the size and it is for me only a tool.)
Favorite App: Uber
Favorite Cause: World Peace
Most important technology of 2016: Driverless Automobiles.
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Life (and success in business) is a series of non-fatal mistakes. AND — there are no mistakes if you learn from them.