Damon: A Renaissance Man

“One of my favorite things about cooking is the ability to provide good, real food. I especially love a day where we have a dinner and everything on the table is something I made (including the beer or wine). That makes me proud.”

Damon: Cook Smarts Hero in the Kitchen via @cooksmarts
We’re so excited to welcome our first dad to our Heroes in the Kitchen series, and this is one impressive Renaissance dad! Damon is the Chief Cook in his household and despite juggling a lot, he manages to find time to brew beer, puree whole foods for his 9 month old, and cook impressive meals for his wife and friends. Read his Heroes in the Kitchen story below:

Name: Damon
Age: 41
City, State: Indianapolis, Indiana
I cook for: my wife and me, while I purée for my son.
Outside of the kitchen: work for McGraw-Hill Education, and when I’m not trying to keep up with a nine-month old, I keep busy with loads of hobbies. I am pretty serious about golf, homebrewing, and reading, and not very serious about painting.
Being able to cook allows me to: feel like I am providing nutritious meals on a daily basis. On occasion, it allows me to knock people’s socks off when we are entertaining at home.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Chicken fajitas. Other meals might have been more complex or more satisfying in other ways, but I was blown away by how good the fajitas were: I just didn’t know fajitas could be that good (in a restaurant or otherwise).

How did you learn to cook?

I learned to cook in a few ways, starting with my parents not cooking very much. My father had a few things he would make–spaghetti, smoked sausage and macaroni and cheese, some version of a braised beef roast that was gray and chewy; my mother would very occasionally make salmon patties or breakfast for dinner. It was pretty boring, especially for a kid who liked to to eat. When I was old enough (ten or eleven), I started experimenting in the kitchen, adding spices to hamburgers and learning how to make hash browns and eggs (before everyone woke up).

When I was in high school, I became friends with a guy whose parents owned a gourmet kitchen store. I would go to their house for dinner as often as possible, just to experience his mother’s great cooking. She would tell me what she did and I ended up buying cookbooks from her before I went to college.

In college, cooking became a two-front war: On one side, I was broke, so it was lots of pasta and tuna; on the other, it was a good way to start a date without being able to afford a nice restaurant. After college, I moved to France, and though I had terrible equipment, I expanded my pallette greatly.

How has your cooking routine changed recently?

With Cook Smarts, some of the hardest parts of two people working full time and taking care of an infant have become simple. We don’t have to over-think what we want to do for dinner throughout the week, and we only have to make up a grocery list for odds-and-ends. I try to make sure I make more than enough of dishes that we know we will like, so we will have them for leftovers for lunch. And for things that we might be a little ambivalent about, we can search in the archive for maybe something that excites us more. (We’d love to see a “build-a-menu” feature in the future.) {Cook Smarts: Damon, that’s definitely something we’re looking into!}

“Cooking with good equipment makes it easier and safer to cook, and I would argue that it makes you want to constantly do better.”

What new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?

One of my favorite things about cooking is the ability to provide good, real food. I especially love a day where we have a dinner and everything on the table is something I made (including the beer or wine). That makes me proud.

What advice would you give to other home cooks on reaching their cooking goals?

When I was able to, one of the first things I bought myself was a good set of pots and pans and some good knives. Most of the ones I have and continue to use are more than 15 years old, and I don’t foresee replacing them soon. My best advice is to do some research and invest in good equipment; it will pay for itself over and over again. (You can start by replacing pieces and build up if that’s easier, too, of course.) Cooking with good equipment makes it easier and safer to cook, and I would argue that it makes you want to constantly do better.


Thanks Damon! We’re sure a lot of our moms will be showing this post to their husbands, hoping that a bit of your enthusiasm in the kitchen will rub off on them. Don’t be surprised if we end up on your doorstep for some homemade brew. Also, thank you for being one of our most active Kitchen Heroes – we don’t know how you do it all!

Damon's favorite @cooksmarts meal: Chicken Fajitas
To join Damon and cook meals like his favorite Chicken Fajitas, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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