The Food In My Beard
Dan’s blog, The Food In My Beard, is his recipe playground where he cooks anything and everything, and enjoys mashing up flavors and cuisines that aren’t normally paired together. Since starting his website in 2008, he has published over 1,000 recipes. Dan’s first cookbook Stuffed came out in 2014, and he’s got another one coming on the way. Dan has been featured in publications such as Saveur, Bon Appetit, Serious Eats, and Fine Cooking just to name a few.
I am so excited to have Dan Whalen of The Food In My Beard with me on the show today.
(*All photos below are Dan’s.)
On Doing Improv and How it Helps His Work:
When my first book came out, I did a few appearances for it and I felt like, they went okay, but it’s not like I’m getting new fans from it. And I asked my literary agent what can I do to be better at this kind of stuff? Because you can’t just practice it. You can’t just go on TV and keep practicing it. And even if you did, it’s not enough and it would be too slow to get better. So I started taking improv, she suggested I take improv classes. I’ve been doing improv now for two years. And I do it pretty much at least once a week, if not more. I feel like even two years later, every time I get on a stage for improv, it helps me when I go on camera.
Because I’m an expert at cooking, and I know exactly what I’m talking about. But when I go on stage for improv, there’s no words, there’s no planning. I’m not an expert, and I just have to go up there and wing it. So if nothing else, it has helped me just be so confident when I’m going in front people for cooking because I have a plan. I know what I’m going to say, and even if something goes wrong, I know what I’m doing, and I can I can wing it and I can fix it.
On His Recipe Mash Ups:
The more recent one that was pretty awesome was I’d put tacos, instead of a taco shell, I used a grilled cheese as a taco. And that was a big recipe for me. That did really well. It was on BuzzFeed, it was on Mashable, went around on all the websites, and that was a fun one to do. But also one of my favorites is I did a stroganoff burger, so I don’t know if you’ve seen the ramen burger that was pretty popular with the noodles as the bun. I did that kind of thing but used egg noodles as the bun for the burger and then put sour cream, mushrooms, onion sauce on top of it.
I’ve had a few rough failures in my day, I guess. One of the fast food pizza companies had commercials for a bread bowl filled with pasta, and this was…I lived in Bermuda, actually, when I started my blog. I spent a couple of years there after college working in computer science there. And I was looking at this, and I’m like, “This looks like something I would make on my website, and I couldn’t get it because I was in Bermuda. There were no fast food chains there. So I tried to make their bread bowl of pasta. But instead of par-cooking the bowl, which I’m assuming is what they do, I tried to make the bowl just of raw dough, and fill it with pasta, almost like making a pizza. I slid off the pizza peel into the oven and the bowl basically fell down, and all the pasta just spilled into the oven everywhere.
On His Sources of Inspiration:
I have a handful of things I do. I love when I get inspired by pop culture. I love when I come up with a recipe or copy a recipe from a TV show. An example of that was I used Orange Is the New Black last season, the main character’s brother had mentioned he was doing liquid nitrogen ice cream, which I immediately got a million texts, because I do liquid nitrogen ice cream all the time, and he one-off just mentioned that he made a BLT ice cream. So I was like, “Oh, great. I’ll make a BLT ice cream. Why not?” It sounds like something I would make anyways.
But I like to do music recipes. One of my favorite musicians is Courtney Barnett, and she has a song where she talks about being a gardener, and she grows all these vegetables, so I made a salad out of the vegetables that she grows.
Other than that, blogs, being immersed in the food culture anyway, so I see food in front of me at all times every day. I live in Boston and we have a great restaurant scene here. I go to restaurants as much as I can, try the new stuff that chefs are doing.
And then one that probably isn’t as popular among other bloggers is I can sit on my couch while I’m doing work with Diners, Drive-in and Dives on TV. And I half pay attention to my work, and half pay attention to that, and I have my notebook next to me, and I’m just like, “Yes, I’m going to make this, I’m going to make this, I’m going to make all this stuff,” because the places he goes to are very…especially the newer seasons, these are cool, modern places that are doing fun, unique, a lot of fusion mash-up stuff that is my style.
On His Next Cookbook:
It’s all Tater Tot recipes. I have really cool stuff in there, like how to make your own tots, how to best utilize store bought tots, what the best types and flavors and brands are, but then more importantly, a ton of just unique ways to use them that aren’t just cook them and eat them. I have a Bibimbap, but with tots. I have shepherd’s pie but with tots. All sorts of different tot, like with nacho toppings on tots, poutine, everything. Everything you could imagine. There’s a whole dessert chapter. I have sweet potato tot pie, I have tot éclairs, everything, everything you’d want.
And I’ve been, actually, like as I make each recipe, I’ve been putting them on Snapchat. I love using Snapchat because it’s fun and in the moment. If I’m here cooking by myself, I’m bored. So it’s almost like I can share the moment with everyone immediately. And I’ve been getting such good feedback on all the different tot recipes. So I’m so excited for it to come out.
Snapchat along with all other social media stuff is T-F-I-M-B, which is the initials of The Food In My Beard. And I think it’s nice and easy, TFIMB.
The Pressure Cooker:
Which food shows or cooking shows do you watch?
So I already said the one with Action Bronson that I can’t even really say, F, That’s Delicious. That’s one of my favorites. I like the weird stuff, so I don’t know if you’ve seen an old show on IFC called Food Party. It’s a combination of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and a cooking show and it’s just surreal and weird. And it’s not really a cooking show, but I just love it.
What are some food blogs or food websites we have to know about?
I follow a lot of my friends, so right now I like Macheesmo. I’ve always been friends with Nick and his blog is great. And I’ve been following on Instagram The Vulgar Chef, and he lives nearby, and we hang out sometimes. But his stuff, the writing is a little not for everyone, I guess. And I recently met, on a trip, The Cookie Rookie, Becky, and she’s great. She’s so fun and her pictures are stunning. Also in Boston, I like my friend Brian Samuels’ A Thought For Food. We’re potentially working together on a project coming out soon which I’m really excited about.
Who do you follow on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat that make you happy?
I love Snapchat. I am loving Eden Eats, her account is wonderful. And she has a show, I think, on cooking channel, but her Snapchat is just great. You just follow her around and she’s just having a great time everywhere she goes, and it’s a nice Snapchat account. I also like, again, my friends from Boston, I like Boston Pollen on Instagram. She’s a florist and her pictures are just stunning. Every picture is beautiful and amazing.
What is the most unusual or treasured item in your kitchen?
So being a food blogger, of course, the pictures are so important, right? I moved into this apartment, and in the backyard, there’s a table and it looks like the table that every blogger has in their dreams. It’s funny to say that the table looks like a kitchen tool, but it has made photography in this apartment so easy, especially now that it’s summer and I’m doing a lot of grilling. It just makes every photo pop.
Name one ingredient you used to dislike but now you love.
I never was a big fan of eggplant. And I wouldn’t say I love it now, but I like it. I like it a lot, especially when it’s done right.
What are a few cookbooks that make your life better?
My favorite cookbook ever is Pok Pok. I feel like that book has taught me so much, and it’s probably the book that I cook most out of by a mile.
What song or album just makes you want to cook?
I’m really into music so that’s a hard question for me. But right now, I can’t stop listening to Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. They just had an album that came out a few months ago and I saw them in concert. I’m just listening to all their albums in the kitchen.
On Keeping Posted with Dan:
Definitely Snapchat and Instagram, so TFIMB which is the initials for The Food In My Beard.