8 Years of Cook Smarts

Take a walk down memory lane with us and learn more about the Cook Smarts story.

  • By Jess Dang
  • December 8, 2020

I cannot believe it’s been over 8 years since I started Cook Smarts. When I first started, I had no idea what this company would exactly be. I wanted to teach people how to cook and feel more confident in the kitchen because I knew that there was so much power in a home-cooked meal.

I did not set out to create a meal plan service but after teaching dozens of people in their kitchens, it made so much sense. Most people didn’t have time to take an online cooking course, but they did need to cook dinner and often had no plan for what they were going to cook. And so this idea of a meal plan service that would improve your cooking skills was born.

Getting a meal plan service off the ground felt like a herculean task, especially since we were going to do all the development ourselves. I couldn’t have imagined being able to start our meal plan service without the talent and tenacity of Jen Gilbert. I’ve lived a very full life in my 39 years but nothing has made me prouder than two 30-something ladies with no coding background being able to launch a web-app within the course of 8 months. It really felt like a miracle but clearly it was just a lot of hard work and not giving up.

Since we launched our meal plan service in May of 2013, I have been so lucky to continue building out just a phenomenal team of women who care so much about our product and our community. We are also so lucky to have a community of members who really appreciate our service and we love that we get to help them live a less stressful and more delicious life. Thank you for being a part of our story!


8 Years of Cook Smarts Meal Plan Service

Cook Smarts' meal plan service is now 8 years old! Learn more about our story with this infographic.

Fun Facts About the Cook Smarts Team

Jess Dang | Founder & Fixer of Stuff

Most important kitchen tool (aside from a knife): salad spinner
Go-to breakfast: a fried egg over avocado toast
You have 15 minutes to make a meal, what is it? A really hearty salad. I usually have air-fried chicken breast or beans that need just a quick re-heat and it’s the best way to get lots of textures, veggies, and flavors in 1 bowl! 
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: I cannot pick because so much depends on my mood but I do think our Panko-Crusted Salmon is like the quintessential Cook Smarts meal and has shown so many people how easy it is to cook fish!
Top 3 pantry essentials: While I could not live without my oil, salt, and soy sauce, I also love my sherry vinegar, Better than Bouillon paste, and chili powder. I could add like 50 more . . .
Guilty pleasure, food or not: I don’t feel guilty about it at all but I love eating ice cream in my mini-van while listening to a podcast.
One food you can’t stand: acorn squash
Specialty dish: We don’t eat red meat often but a really good medium-rare steak always feels like a treat to make!

Jess Smith | Meal Plan Developer

Most important kitchen tool (aside from a knife): instant read thermometer
Go-to breakfast: oatmeal with fruit
You have 15 minutes to make a meal, what is it? fried eggs and toast
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Sheet Pan Greek Salmon (or any version of Fattoush)
Top 3 pantry essentials: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Za’atar seasoning
Guilty pleasure, food or not: cheesy RomCom movies 
One food you can’t stand: pretzels (weird but true!)
Specialty dish: Thai Laab (chopped meat salad with herbs)

Sarah Byun | Kitchen Happiness Cheerleader

Most important kitchen tool (aside from a knife): 12-inch, well-seasoned cast iron skillet
Go-to breakfast: eggs any-style and good black coffee
You have 15 minutes to make a meal, what is it? A stir-fry with whatever proteins or veggies I have on hand. I always have some sort of veggie mix in the freezer which makes things even faster – no prep required!
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: This is SUCH a hard question, because I love all Cook Smarts meals! My latest favorite is Lomo Saltado. The Turkey Meatball Lettuce Cups with Honey Adobo Sauce was the first CS meal I ever made, so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Top 3 pantry essentials: soy sauce, rice vinegar, avocado oil
Guilty pleasure, food or not: YA fiction (I can’t believe I just admitted that)
One food you can’t stand: Injera. I will eat almost anything, but I have such a hard time with Ethiopian food.
Specialty dish: Homemade kimchi – it is super time consuming to make, but fun and rewarding. And so much better than store-bought!

Jackie Sun | Project Manager

Most important kitchen tool (aside from a knife): 10-inch frying pan (I use it every day!)
Go-to breakfast: apple with chunky peanut butter and a mug of HOT water
You have 15 minutes to make a meal, what is it? Miso Tofu Ramen with instant ramen and a quick miso-soy broth (preferably with some quartered fresh tomatoes and lime juice). I add the tofu in the simmering broth, and it’s so easy to add canned baby corn and leftover veggies!
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: So hard to choose between the Tom Kha Soup and the Curried Red Lentil Soup!
Top 3 pantry essentials: soy sauce, canned tomatoes, and buckwheat
Guilty pleasure, food or not: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
One food you can’t stand: cilantro and white pepper (can’t decide which one is worse!)
Specialty dish: Soup! I love making a good, flavorful soup chock full of veggies, and I’m happy I can expand my repertoire with all the Cook Smarts soups!

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