My name is Dan McCullough. I used to be a chef. Before that, I was a writer, but not a food writer. I wrote for newspapers, which were these big sheets of paper with writing and pictures on them that somebody delivered to your doorstep each morning.
About 17 years ago, dissatisfied with the path of my journalism career, I enrolled in culinary school and traded
in my press pass for a chef’s toque.
Ever since then, I have banged around the restaurant industry in a variety of jobs — executive chef, dishwasher, the chatty bartender, the anxious restaurant manager, the overworked purchasing agent, the snooty server, the grouchy fry cook, the salad girl, the guy who takes out the garbage, you name it.
I’ve worked in fancy French bistros, rock’em sock’em banquet halls, busy downtown bars, and four different casinos. I’ve gone to work in tuxedos, chef’s whites, t-shirts and cargo shorts, and designer suits.
Now, thanks to troubling economic times and an unexpected layoff, I suddenly find myself with enough time on my hands to reflect on these experiences and write about them.
In other words, I got burned.
And I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve had a lot of terrific experiences and have met all kinds of people and learned all kinds of things along my journey, but up until now I haven’t had time to process much of it. I can’t wait to get started.
So much has changed since the last time I sat down to write. For one, people write blogs instead of articles. These are published on the internet rather than in magazines or newspapers. These are read on iPhones, iPads and Kindles, things that were unimaginable back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
But much has remained the same. People still want to know how they can feed their families delicious, nutritious meals without going over their food budget. They want to know how to turn the essential human experience of preparing and eating food into something fun and enjoyable.
That’s where I come in: I can do that!
If this blog were to have a mission statement, it would be:
“I want to share my experiences in the restaurant trade in a format that both informs and entertains; to help the home cook provide the best possible meals at the lowest possible prices; and to share insider industry tips and techniques for making the cooking
experience efficient, affordable and fun.”
Sure, you might call that turning lemons into lemonade, but isn’t that what life is all about? Adapting to change?
My last job, I had to get up at 3:45 every morning so I could take the L downtown
where I would check in deliveries on loading dock by 5:30 a.m. Before that, I
spent three hours/day driving back and forth between Chicago and my job in New
So today, I’m actually grateful to have some time between soul-crushing jobs to step back and reflect, to think about what it has meant and to try to pass on some of the things I’ve learned.
On USA Network’s television show “Burn Notice,” ex-spy Michael Westen (played by the terrific Jeffrey Donovan) intersperses tips and techniques he’s learned in the spy trade with stories about helping people in trouble. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s a pretty good show.
That’s kind of what I’m aiming for here. Although I’m certainly no former special forces agent like Michael, I think I can still use my experience to help people out during stressful times.
Except maybe without the trigger-happy ex-girlfriend.
So I hope you join me on this new journey. I promise to keep it fun and snappy. I hope to publish at least a couple of times per week. Maybe less if I have job interviews (So far that hasn’t been a problem).
Let’s see where this journey takes us!
Dan McCullough is an award-winning journalist and classically trained chef. He lives with his wife and two dogs on the South Side of Chicago.
very interesting, Barbara forwarded your first blog to me. looking forward to reading more. ….Good Luck!
I’m glad you commented on my blog so that I could find yours!! I’m from the suburbs of Chicago!! Brookfield Zoo, anyone? =) All of your recipes look fantastic and I can’t wait to start trying all of them!!
I used to take my daughter to Brookfield Zoo all the time. She’s older now, but we took our neices and nephews last summer and it’s changed a lot, but still fun.
It’s been a blast making (and eating) all of these recipes. Thanks for looking at my blog!
Oh, keep us posted. We all want to hear you got a job interview. They are so hard to come by now a days!
Thanks for your kind words of support. I will absolutely keep you posted.
Dan, love reading your blog and finding new recipes. I am republishing my cookbook (written for friends and family) and plan to add a few new recipes I have tried and liked, I would love to add your favorite recipe for Kolmar Street and others to try. I think they would appreciate a recipe from someone who is actually a professional chef. Keep up the interesting blog. Mrs. Gilboy
It has been a real pleasure writing this blog. I finally have been able to combine my journalistic skills with all the cooking experience I’ve had. I hope to continue it for as long as I can.
And I would love to get my hands on that cookbook once you finish it! Thanks for reading my blog!
You were looking for other Slow Cooker recipes. I found a recipe in 2005 food section of Sun-times for Slow Cooker Southern Barbecue Pork. It was 1 of the top 10 recipes. Last year I sent it to their swap shop recipes and they published it again with my name. I don’t know the difference between a blog and a reply so I don’t know where to write it. I don’t know anything about blogs and face book etc.
I will look for the recipe! If you are interested in starting a blog — and I would strongly encourage anyone to do it, it’s so fun — just go to WordPress.com and follow the easy-to-use step-by-step instructions. My nephew, Danny Labuda, who is in the 7th grade at St. Catherine’s and who lives in our old house, helped me get mine set up, but it’s really super easy.
Is Michael still selling wine? I used to run into him when I ran the F&B at the Marriott in Oak Brook. Tell him I said hi!
Michael is still in the wine business. Beringer has changed hands many times so I am not sure who he works for anymore. M.Gilboy
Love your blog.. thanks for stopping by mine. I can’t wait to see what else you share with us!
Thanks for stopping by our blog! We love perusing through yours and are anxious to try some new recipes (I made it a personal new years resolution 12 months ago to cook more and I’m loving it!). We’d like to place your blog in our blog’s blogroll – I hope you’re ok with us sending some traffic your way. Thanks again and we’ll be reading and eating!
I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award!
Thanks for being such a wonderful food blogger!
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Oh my, all of the meals look delicious. If you ever need a pic of burnt toast, I am the go to girl. 🙂
I am so excited that I found your blog! Now I have some dinner ideas! I also love the show Burn Notice and I have to say I really did laugh out loud when you said the Trigger Happy Ex- Girlfriend comment! I also live in the burbs of Chicago! I love to find local bloggers that live near me. Are you on Twitter yet? If so find me @TOR0706
You are clearly an awesome chef and cooking on a budget is right up my alley!! Because of your mad skills I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award!!
Great blog! Thank you for sharing 🙂
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Hi, Since I enjoy your site and blog posts, I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. If you’d like to read and repost the award, here’s the link: http://perisspiceladle.com/2012/05/16/the-power-of-three-liebster-award-versatile-blogger-award-and-one-lovely-blog-award/
Look forward to reading more of your posts.
Hi.. It was a pleasure to stumble across your blog. I lost my job a few months ago and its been a struggle to maintain my healthy diet on a tighter budget. You have proved it can be done. Most of your recipes have ingredients I already have on hand and are simple yet delicious. Your page is clearly filled with your passion for food. Well Done.
Hi there! I love your blog and I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award 🙂
I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and love the recipe’s. Just got around to reading your ABOUT and truly enjoyed it. You have a great writing style. Also I connected with the career change path we have both taken. It is quite the adventure and you are absolutely right; “I couldn’t be happier”.
PS I forgot to say that I am a fan of Burn Notice too and even better they film on our street and neighborhood every year. It’s always cool to recognize houses, locales etc.
The exploding houses is another story LOL.
How cool is that? I wanted to take a “Burn Notice” vacation to Miami last spring, but went to LA instead. Maybe next year!
I wanted to email this directly to you, but I couldn’t find an address on your blog. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you made our list of the top 25 blogs for cooking on a budget. Here is a link http://www.havedeals.com/blog/our-top-25-blogs-for-cooking-on-a-budget/.
Budget Cooking Blog is really useful and fun! The Michael Weston of cooking, I love it. Keep up the great work!
Nice to meet you! I am a Belgian foodie that just discovered your lovely blog!
I’m glad you found me! Thanks for reading!
I nominated you for some blogging awards! http://pursuitofhappieness.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/gratitude-to-my-fellow-bloggers-and-readers/
Ive been reading your blog for a while, but just now got to read About)) Thanks for sharing your experience and recipes! And for stopping by and following my blog.
Hello Dan, found your blog today and love the idea of cooking on a budget. A minimalist myself, I’m always looking for inspirations to eat healthy and frugally. Looking forward to your posts…
(I don’t know how to catch your attention but hopefully you could spare me a minute to read this message.)
My name is Freddy. Surfing on the net I found your blog and noticed you have a great number of tasty recipes there, that is why I am contacting you. I wonder if you would like join our website http://www.mytaste.com and receive more visitors to your blog through making your recipes available to a greater number of internet users.
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I’m a fellow writer/cook. I did the opposite of you: I cooked professionally and now I’m in journalism school! I am doing a story about how to eat healthy on a budget. Would you be willing to speak with me for a story? I would love to be able to say how a single person can eat for less than $40 a week or how a couple can eat for less than $100 a week. Getting the perspective of a trained chef would be a wonderful addition. You can respond here or shoot me an email at email@example.com.