The Food in My Beard on Writing Cookbooks

The Food in My Beard Instagram/Brian Samuels

Dan Whalen has quite the varied work history. Formerly a banking professional in Bermuda, The Food in My Beard blogger has worked for gelato and burrito companies too. His love of food has come full circle — and helped him meet his wife! — and since 2016 he’s been able to make a full-time gig of pursuing his passion: crafting crazy concoctions in the kitchen.

He refers to his food blog as his recipe playground, and a quick scan of his website makes his meaning clear. The site features mash-up meals like street corn deviled eggs, kung pao hot dogs and chicken parm nachos. Between navigating life as a newlywed and launching his third cookbook, Whalen took some time to share how he got his start almost 11 years ago, lay out (in detail) his ultimate Boston food crawl and reveal his thoughts on where restaurant trends are heading.

Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?

I am originally from Springfield, but went to college in Waltham and moved to Boston shortly after. Other than a 2 year stint in Bermuda, I have lived in Boston ever since. I went to school for computer science and started a blog in 2008 to practice coding when I had extra downtime at my cushy IT job at a bank in Bermuda.

When I got back to the States, I ended up applying to food jobs as well as computer jobs because it was hard to find work at the time. I started working at a gelato company out of Belmont as the production manager, creating new flavors for restaurants all over Massachusetts. After that, I helped open a burrito shop, all the while keeping up my blog. My first cookbook Stuffed came out in 2015 and I was finally able to do my blog full-time a year later in 2016. This year, my second and third cookbooks were released, one all about tater tots, and the other called The Comfort Food Mash-Up Cookbook.

I was featured on a tater tot segment on CBS Sunday Morning, competed on an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games, and my recipe videos have been viewed over 50 million times. I also got married this year and met my wife Georgina (editor’s note: read our Q & A with Georgina Castellucci here) through blogging.

Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.

I envision this as a day-long crawl that starts with only me and Georgina, and slowly gathers friends and family along the way culminating with a party at the last spot:
Omakase at o ya
Lobster Roll at Neptune Oyster
A Kobe Steak with Truffled Tots and Lobster Mac & Cheese on the side at Grill 23
Jalapeno Burger at Tasty Burger
Negronis, Pasta and Dessert at SRV

What do you think the next big trend is for restaurants?

With everyone doing things “for the Insta” right now, like the new Instagram table at Boston Chops or the quaint decor at Pammy’s, I can’t decide if people are going to double down on that or go in the complete opposite direction  — like eating ugly delicious food in a dark room with brown table cloths.

Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram?

Karen Akunowicz @karencake
Meg Thompson @megallysa
Jamie Bissonnette @jamiebiss
David Chang @davidchang
Richard Blais @richardblais

Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?

Besides chefs I mostly follow music, art, Star Wars, and video game accounts, but here are some of my friends who have good food content.

@thevulgarchef – Kyle has mastered the art of making really gross food and saying really gross things.

@blumie625 – No one is more on top of the Boston food scene than Rachel and every time I see her posting about a new place I am sure to go shortly after.

@briansamuelsphotography – Brian shot my recent cookbook and everything he posts is beautiful.

Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?

Chickadee, Whaling in Oklahoma, Dakzen, Suya Joint

What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?

For me, the only way was practice. I have been posting recipes and photos on my blog a few times a week for almost 11 years and I only think I got halfway decent at taking photos around 4 years ago. What I have found is that the only important thing is lighting. Things also changed a few years ago with the Instagram style of food photos, so I am always looking for that digging in/noodle pull/breaking yolk/cheese pull/sauce drip photo as opposed to just a simple still picture of the composed dish.

A Few Of Your Favorite Things:

Favorite brunch spot: Maybe Southern Proper but we go to Victoria’s the most for breakfast
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Coppa
Favorite BBQ joint: Sweet Cheeks
Favorite late-night: SRV — this is our favorite in general as you can probably tell by me mentioning it several times
Favorite neighborhood for food: South End
Favorite new restaurant: Not a restaurant but my favorite new spot is the new Backlash taproom in Roxbury

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