Ep. 43: Dan Souza on the Craft and Art of Cooking

Dan Souza, the editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated, chats with David and Amy about all things food, cooking, storytelling, and that time a striped bass almost killed him.

Dan Souza, Editor in Chief of Cook's Illustrated

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Summary of this week’s podcast

This week, Dan Souza, editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated and host of the award-winning Youtube Series What’s Eating Dan?, joins Amy and David on Talking with my Mouth Full. Dan shares how he went from teaching English in rural Hungary to graduating first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America to running the country’s premiere cooking magazine.

The three-time Moth Radio Hour Grandslam champion tells the tale about the striped bass that nearly killed him, discusses how Cook’s Illustrated has brought more diversity to its pages, and tells us what he likes to cook when he’s dead tired (fried rice). 

A decorative metal serving bowl filled with fried rice with leftovers and a bowl of jalapeño garlic vinegar on the side
: Aubrie Pick

“As I got more into cooking and spent more time in restaurants and culinary school, I realized I was a decent line cook but not the best,” Dan says. “In my last restaurant job, I was just like, ‘I want to be writing… where could I possibly combine all my interests?’”

Landing at Cook’s Illustrated turned out to be Dan’s ultimate dream job. Now, twelve years later, he’s at the top of the masthead and fully immersed in his passion for understanding the science of cooking. “[Knowing science] makes you a better cook and makes you less reliant on recipes,” he says. “Which is crazy coming from me because we make great recipes. But it really does. If you understand what’s happening in, say, your fried egg, where the white and the yolk set at different temperatures…you have more ability to be more agile.”

A perfect fried egg in a small black skillet.
: Mikkel Vang

While Cook’s Illustrated has evolved into a multi-media brand, Dan imagines a future in which home cooks are “…using technology to get back to something we all would’ve had 75-plus years ago…” which is a personal guide or teacher. What we once learned from our grandparents may one day be taught virtually and interactively by experts like Dan.

“No one is doing it quite yet, but we’re getting much closer to that level of personalization using technology, whether it’s a speaker you can talk to, or…I have a friend who was working on Bose for a while and they were working on eyeglasses that were connected to headphones. Using eye movements, you could make things happen. So you’re hearing a recipe, with eye motion you could go back to the step before.”

Ya don’t say, Dan.

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