Dunagan: Chef Dad

Following recipes and creating something attractive and delicious is satisfying and empowering in the end. – Dunagan

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Dunagan may have first started cooking to impress his then-girlfriend (now wife!), but his passion for cooking grew with each delicious meal he created. He and his wife share this love of cooking with their two kids, who are also involved in the dinner process. As Father’s Day approaches, we are happy to have this dad share his cooking experiences, as well as his advice on creating and enjoying family dinners together. Read Dunagan’s Heroes in the Kitchen story below.

Name: Dunagan Pearson
Age: 35
City, State: Mountain View, CA
I cook for: my family — My wife, Mandy, and our 2 kids, who are 4 and 2 years old.
Outside of the kitchen I: am a mechanical engineer working as a Senior Manager of the development group at NeuroPace, a medical device company. We make an implantable device which is designed to detect and stop an epileptic seizure before it even starts.
Being able to cook allows me to: impress my wife. 🙂 Also introduce our kids to a wide variety of dishes, so “they eat what we eat” instead of offering up a “kids menu” every night.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Hard to say:
Maple Dijon Panko-Crusted Salmon
Pulled BBQ Chicken Tacos
Cream-Free Corn and Potato Chowder
Turkey Burgers with Adobo Honey Sauce

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?

For 5 years out of college, I lived with my Stanford buddies, and never cooked at all. Then I moved in with my then-girlfriend, now-wife Mandy . . . Started watching 30 Minute Meals with Rachel Ray, and surprising Mandy with cooked meals to try to impress her . . . The turning point was this meal, Black Cherry and Black Pepper Lamb Chops with Sweet Pea Risotto.

Something about cooking appealed to the engineer in me, and cooking became more of a hobby. Following recipes and creating something attractive and delicious is satisfying and empowering in the end. Much like designing a product from an engineering standpoint.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE in the past?

Time. Time to shop + time to prep + time to cook = too much time. We are busy, and now with 2 working parents and 2 young kids, it’s even harder. Kids come home from daycare / preschool and are hungry, and we know what that means.

The Cook Smarts recipes, combined with shopping lists and (for us in the Bay Area) Instacart grocery delivery allows me to stock the kitchen and get the meals prepared before the kids get home without having to cut my work day short. Dinner is usually served at 6, with me getting home not much before 5:30, which works for me, my employer, and my family. Perfect.

HOW HAS YOUR COOKING ROUTINE CHANGED RECENTLY?

Cook Smarts + Instacart = dinner is served. Also, Cook Smarts ensures a good rotation of ingredients and flavors without my having to do the planning.


“Our kids…see and taste for themselves our family’s passion for cooking. Cook Smarts has definitely made it easier and more sustainable for us to make this possible.”


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

We have a rule, which the kids (at least the 4-year-old) actually follow, which is, “You have to taste it to say you don’t like it.”

When I placed the Panko-Crusted Salmon dish in front of my daughter, she started with, “I don’t like fish,” but then understood that she would at least try it first. She took a bite, including that soy maple dijon panko crust, and was quiet for a second and looked down sheepishly. “What is it?” I asked her. “. . . I really like it,” she answered. Now it’s her favorite dish.

WHAT advice would you give to other home cooks (or dads) who want to be cooking more family dinners?

Make cooking an activity that you can enjoy — and assuming that’s the case, bring your kids into the fun. Let them see that you enjoy cooking, are proud of the results. Explain parts of the cooking process. Let them slice, dice, taste, when it’s safe to do so.

My wife and I both enjoy cooking, and our schedules determine who makes dinner on any given night. But our kids are used to seeing us in the kitchen, and see and taste for themselves our family’s passion for cooking. Cook Smarts has definitely made it easier and more sustainable for us to make this possible.


Thanks, Dunagan! Perhaps someday soon you and Mandy will be able to sit back and relax, while the kids cook dinner for you guys? But before then, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day! Your family is very lucky to have such a great cook for a father.

To join Dunagan and cook meals like his favorite Maple Dijon Panko-Crusted Salmon, Pulled BBQ Chicken Tacos, Cream-Free Corn and Potato Chowder, and Turkey Burgers with Adobo Sauce, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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