Podcast Episode 91

‘Don’t Yuck My Yum’ – GrossyPelosi Shares the Meaning Behind his Philosophy

Dan Pelosi | 46 Minutes | September 12, 2023

In today’s episode, we speak with our guest Dan Pelosi, better known as “The Italian American Meatball” and the content creator behind GrossyPelosi on social media.

In this episode, we delve into Dan’s inspiring story of transitioning from a design career to building his own brand during the pandemic. Through the natural comfort and connection of food, he shares how this bright online community has rapidly grown. We also explore the heartwarming anecdotes behind the recipes in Dan’s new cookbook Let’s Eat: 101 Recipes to Fill Your Heart & Home.

Listen as Dan talks about “living in a rainbow,” enjoying punny catchphrases, and the real meaning behind his “don’t yuck my yum” philosophy.

Watch the podcast episode:

Video thumbnail

Notes & Transcript


Kirk Bachmann: Hi everyone, my name is Kirk Bachmann, and welcome back to The Ultimate Dish. Today, I’m speaking with Dan Pelosi, better known as the “Italian-American meatball” behind GrossyPelosi on social media.

Dan’s affinity for colorful foods first started in his family kitchen, creating home-cooked meals with his Italian and Portuguese-American parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

While completing his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at Rhode Island School of Design and studying abroad in Italy, Dan’s love for cooking reignited. Fast forward to today, Dan is a full-time content creator, a recipe developer, and a writer, fostering a bright community of over 100,000 followers on Instagram through the natural comfort and connection of food.

Now with several brand partnerships, a merch line, and his debut cookbook, “Let’s Eat,” Pelosi always “lives here now,” as he famously says. Dan is also the video host of the Food52 series, “The Secret Sauce,” Where he travels across the tri-state area to visit Food52 community members to share their most beloved recipes and cook together.

With a larger-than-life, infectious personality, Dan has made appearances on the “Drew Barrymore Show,” “Rachael,” and “Good Morning America.” His work has been featured in “Food & Wine,” “Real Simple,” “The Washington Post,” “The New York Times,” and Bloomberg, just to name a few.

So join me today as we speak with Dan about leaving his design job to pursue his brand, the heartwarming stories behind his cookbook recipes, and so much more.

And there he is. I rushed through it because I can’t wait to talk to you. Welcome.

Dan Pelosi: Hello. That was such a soothing, wonderful intro. It was very sort of “Mr. Rogers putting his shoes on.” I feel just at ease.

Kirk Bachmann: I could do it again.

Dan Pelosi: I almost want to fall asleep to that every night.

Kirk Bachmann: We could make that happen.

Dan Pelosi: How narcissistic would that be if I just fell asleep to you introducing me on a podcast.

Kirk Bachmann: We’ve got bigger problems, then, Dan, if that’s going to be good for you.

Before we get started, first a big, big thank you. I know you’re rushing around, just got back from vacation. If I don’t have you say hello to my wife, Gretchen, and blow her a kiss, she’s going to leave me for Drew Barrymore.

Dan Pelosi: Do we want her to leave you for Drew Barrymore? No, we don’t. Hi, Gretchen! Mwah!

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I can’t describe how excited we are, the full-body chills, the whole bit. We’ve all been fans, the whole family, for a long time. My 12-year-old boy, Joseph Henry, wears this all the time.

Dan Pelosi: There it is.

Don’t Yuck My Yum

Kirk Bachmann: There’s something to be said. Let’s kick off with that. “Don’t yuck my yum.” Honestly, right. Don’t yuck my yum!

Dan Pelosi: Don’t do it! I think I am uniquely positioned – and maybe I’m self-appointed – but I just mom the internet a little bit. I have a very maternal or paternal energy, and I think I lead with that. I think people sometimes – in my yard, which is my space, my Instagram – I find [they] come with bad manners. So in order to protect my peace, and hopefully to protect the peace of others, I started saying, “Don’t yuck my yum. I’m sharing my joy. If you don’t like it, you can hold your opinion to yourself. You can move on. You can unfollow. But if you’re going to come on here and tell me you don’t like what I’m making, that’s not the point of what I’m doing.”

Kirk Bachmann: It’s so well said and such a good lesson for young kids today, too, who get hassled a lot and get shamed a lot. That’s where it comes from for my son.

Dan Pelosi: Yeah. It’s a great lesson. It goes way beyond food. I actually just sold that “Don’t yuck my yum” merch during Pride Month, because what better message during Pride Month than don’t yuck my yum. I think it’s just a great lesson. Unless someone is harming someone or doing something horrible, really, we should be able to enjoy what makes us happy.

Kirk Bachmann: Channeling that, in general, where does the energy come from? You come into the room, and people sit up. They’re excited about it. Have you always been like this? Is this just part of your DNA?

Dan Pelosi: According to everyone in my childhood and throughout my life, I’ve always been social, talk to everyone, joking, putting on shows. Even when I was a teenager and in college, people were always like, “Oh my gosh! You should be on TV. You should do this or that.” That’s my energy. It comes from my dad, who was a high school teacher. Every single one of his students loved him. His classes were like a show, so I think that positive, jokey, fun, connecting-with-people energy comes from my dad. It comes from my grandfather. I grew up around a lot of that. I think it makes me happy to make people smile. It’s also easy and it’s also free.

Kirk Bachmann: Three lessons right off the bat. I write this stuff down. We’re in front of thousands of students that have a lot of questions, and they need inspiration and motivation. Push, pull, the whole bit. I love the way that you refer to your space as your yard. I love the show, and I love the manners. We need to talk about that more. Manners everywhere, right, not just [on social media.] The grocery store, in the parking lot, in the classroom. Where did that come from, your attention to that sort of detail.

Dan Pelosi: For me it came from…my audience grew really fast. Suddenly, I had a lot of opinions. At the same time, I was consistently hearing that I was a safe space and a space of joy for people. I knew pretty quickly that if I were going to be able to sustain being a space of joy and a place of safety for people – and this was during the pandemic when I really sort of got my rise – that I would have to pretty clearly state what would make me unhappy. It’s classic boundaries. You are allowed to say what works for you and what doesn’t work for you, and let people decide if they want to stick around or if they want to leave.

I think that has really helped me grow my community really successfully. I hope that everyone who sticks around does it because they hear me clearly state what works for me and what doesn’t as this person who is sharing, sharing, sharing all of this stuff. I think it has so far. When it doesn’t, I let people know, and I let everyone know. If you’re coming here to just tell me, to my face, as I’m eating a lobster roll with a smile on my face in the middle of summer, and you respond, “I don’t like lobster,” or “Oh my gosh, the only lobster rolls that matter are the ones from Maine.” That diminishing of joy. I just can’t. It just really kills me. So I tell people that.

Okay. I’ve said it. I feel better. It keeps me able to do what I do. It’s that simple, but I think a lot of people have a hard time expressing their boundaries.

Collab with Gaby

Kirk Bachmann: I appreciate the explanation. My wife always says that no one can make you feel a certain way. Only you can [inaudible [00:07:57] people a certain way. I appreciate that.

Tell me about the Tillamook Slices of Summer. Anyone who’s spent any time in the state of Oregon absolutely understands Tillamook.

Dan Pelosi: Absolutely. So Tillamook, I do a lot of fun brand partnerships. It’s a lot of the way I make my money. I think that when you have a really great audience and a great group of people who are with you, they want to know what you like, and then you suddenly get to become your own little advertising firm, which is such a treat. My background is creative, so I feel like I’m totally having the best time.

Gaby and I were asked to do something together with Tillamook, which is so unique. Usually I’m doing it on my own, but when we got to collab, especially with someone who I consider such a great friend and supporter, it was so fun. We did a whole event here in New York together, and a collab recipe. Gaby is such a pro. She’s been doing this for over ten years. She has her whole team set up. I learned so much from her, and I’m so inspired by her. I feel like I have so much work to do when I see how she works.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s so sweet. I wonder, did you have to fight for the microphone?

Dan Pelosi: No! Oh my God, no! Really natural. We’re so not like that. We were tossing the mic back and forth to each other.

Kirk Bachmann: I love that.

Dan Pelosi: I have yet to really come across someone as refreshing and real and authentic as Gaby. She’s so, so special. She’s really great.

The Beginning of GrossyPelosi

Kirk Bachmann: Let’s talk a little bit about the launch of GrossyPelosi. We need to hear a little bit more about the new cookbook, which you showed a moment ago. But for our listeners who may not be familiar or are just getting to know you, let’s set the stage just a little bit.

Dan Pelosi: Totally.

Kirk Bachmann: Where does Grossy come from, and how did the brand come together?

Dan Pelosi: Totally. I’ve been going by the nickname Grossy Pelosi since college, which is when the Drew Barrymore movie [came out.] It’s been about 20 years. It’s from the Drew Barrymore movie, “Never Been Kissed,” where she was called Josie Grossy. My friends in college were all drunk and started calling me Grossy Pelosi. I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is so funny. I love it!” It’s self-deprecating and silly and shakes down any seriousness. I’m not a very serious, cerebral person. I just like to have a nice time. Those two things can also exist at the same time. So GrossyPelosi became my MySpace, my Friendster, my Instagram handle.

Then the GrossyPelosi brand started right at the beginning of the pandemic. I had around three or four thousand Instagram followers. I’m 41 now – I spent most of my adult years and my childhood in the kitchen when I wasn’t working. I was a creative director for brands and experiential retail for brands for years. When the pandemic hit, I went from spending the weekends cooking and having friends over to working from home and cooking every single meal every day of the week. I quickly realized that the way I was raised was to stay home, make my home very comfortable, make my home really inviting, have my pantry stocked and know how to make a meal out of anything, and be really comfortable at home. Those things all allowed me to help people during a really difficult time who did not have those strengths in their arsenal, because they grew up in a very different way than I did. With my marketing and design background, I realized by listening to people that I had a lot to share and people wanted to know.

I quickly made GrossyPelosi a bit of a formal thing. I made a logo and I did some merch and I started raising money for LGBTQ elders because they were super at-risk during the pandemic. Then I launched a website and started formally writing recipes in it. I started working with brands. Different people reached out, and I got a book agent. Then I got a book deal. It’s just been a flood ever since. It’s really just so, so cool. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to take my lived experience and turn it into a career.

Early Influences

Kirk Bachmann: From where you got your influence, I’ve read about Bimpy. Can we talk about Bimpy? Are you okay?

Dan Pelosi: We can talk about Bimpy. The reason why I was five minutes late to this phone call is because Bimpy called me, and when Bimpy calls me, you have to pick up.

Kirk Bachmann: You take it.

Dan Pelosi: I knew you would understand.

Kirk Bachmann: And I did.

Dan Pelosi: Bimpy is my grandfather. He’s 101. The main meatball, the head meatball.

Kirk Bachmann: The head meatball. He’s your idol.

Dan Pelosi: He’s definitely my idol. I think he’s my last living grandparent. His wife, my grandma Katherine was also such an incredible cook and chef – cook and mother. She was not a chef. I very much keep chefs and home cooks in different spaces, and I’m a home cook. Bimpy is alive and hysterical and has the best energy and loves food. In his heyday, would make hundreds of meatballs and stick them in the freezer, was always cooking. I’m going with him tomorrow and taking him to lunch because it’s Wednesday and I’m a little bit missing him. He’s just the best.

Kirk Bachmann: Was there any influence – I’ve read that you almost went to culinary school and then decided to pursue a career in design. Also a creative outlet. Chefs are artists, and you have to be an artist in the design world.

Dan Pelosi: I almost went to culinary school, but then I went to design school. Those two things have both led me to where I am now.

Kirk Bachmann: You’re super, super humble. You did work for brands like Gap and Ann Taylor. Tell us more.

Dan Pelosi: I loved my career as a creative director and a creative. I worked for Nike and some really incredible brands. I studied architecture, but I was always interested in branding as a whole. I love connecting with the customer. I love understanding what we’re selling and who we’re selling it to. I love creating spaces and experiences. I’m really lucky that the world of experiential marketing, which is really what I considered myself, came to be during my prime of my late 20s and 30s: pop-ups and Nike having things called Energy Events, where it was just about the energy of the event. I was having the best time designing and working with a team to build these spaces.

I moved to New York about nine years ago and started working for Ann Taylor and helped them launch a whole new brand. I was doing the store design and leading big teams and launching initiatives. It’s just so fun. Now I feel like I’m the creative director of GrossyPelosi. We have a much smaller team, and we all work a lot harder, but it’s really fun.

Allow Yourself to Take Up Space

Kirk Bachmann: A lot of students will listen to this, and we do have career changers as well who need to somehow channel that energy into what their ultimate passion always has been, and that is cooking. I’m really interested in hearing how your background in design influenced and still to this day influences your food and the way you cook and what you like to cook.

Dan Pelosi: Absolutely. I think all of it is driven by my aesthetic. It’s colorful. It’s bright. It’s exciting. It’s very imperfect. I think that is what creates my brand. It’s playful. I think about not just what the food will look like, but what I’m going to serve it in. What the linens, what the knife, what the fork, what the whole experience is going to be. That’s been like that my whole life. I redecorated my parents’ entire living room, dining room. I redecorated my bedroom. They would let me paint on the walls. I’ve been photographing food since the beginning of the iPhone. I’ve just been in the pursuit of aesthetic pleasure, and I think that comes from all my interests combined.

I think it’s really just about allowing yourself to take up space. I would force my friends not to eat their food for two minutes so I could snap a picture. I was doing that for eight years. Now, I’m like, “Guess whose career is to do that?” Okay. All that practice, it paid off. I was sort of pretending I had an audience when I didn’t because I just felt like I had something to say. I allowed myself to do that. I think that some of the most creative and successful people that I know spend years pursuing their passion, and eventually, hopefully, it pays off in some way. Whether it’s to the three eyeballs or three million eyeballs. It’s all valid.

Kirk Bachmann: I love the advice, the experience when a guest comes into a restaurant or even into your home, the food is certainly center plate, but it’s everything else. It’s their surroundings, the type of chair, the glassware.

Dan Pelosi: But I think when everything feels really real and really authentic, that comes from deep within a person, not a corporation.

Making People Comfortable

Kirk Bachmann: Fully agree.

You said something earlier, Dan, that was really thoughtful. You did a lot of work during the pandemic to help others to get through whatever they needed to get through. Maybe they didn’t know how to stock a pantry or cook a meal, or just smile, whatever it was. I’m curious how your decision to full-on go into your brand during the pandemic, how did that help you? You personally.

Dan Pelosi: I always tell people when they thank me, because I still get thanked by people daily for helping them get through that experience. Some people are still very much going through the pandemic even though it’s over, allegedly. It helped me because I was a single person living with two roommates who were a couple. They were very lovely. I drove them completely crazy. But I was also going through the pandemic. I was feeling all the things. I was anxious. I was isolated. I was worried about all the people in my family. I’ve suffered some losses of family members, and having that connectivity and that drive and that creative license during the pandemic got me through as well. We all got each other through. I’m deeply grateful that it changed the entire trajectory of my life, and I know that it was from a lot of hard work and a lot of intentional thinking and doing. It helped me immensely in every way possible.

Kirk Bachmann: Well, well said. What’s funny as I started to prep for our chat and calm my anxiety and my excitement at the same time…

Dan Pelosi: [inaudible [00:19:55] when you [called], I was like a hot mess. You were like, “I’m so nervous.” I was like, “Cool. I have egg yolk in my beard.”

Kirk Bachmann: I finally just had to stop because every time I turned the page there was something else. I came across your house tour on Homeworthy. You opened the door to your beautiful home and became super vulnerable. It’s like, “Come on in.” Tell me about that because what I noticed right away was comfort. I noticed vibrant colors, and I noticed not just the food, but all of the stuff that you need – bowls and plates and cups. Who does not feel comfortable in your home?

Dan Pelosi: Hopefully everyone does. I grew up in homes that were designed for gathering. It was “Come over to our house after this.” The whole “coffee and” experience. “Oh, we’re going to dinner. Come over for coffee and…” It was always my house, or Aunt Maria, the other Aunt Maria’s house.

I think, by extension, I’ve always tried to create those experiences and have the tools. Also, I have the gay wallet. It allows me to buy even more because I just spend way too much money. I don’t mean the gay wallet means I have a lot of money. I think the gay wallet means that the money doesn’t stay in it as tightly as it should. So my aesthetic pursuit drives me to buy way too many bowls and objects and platters and art and blankets.

Kirk Bachmann: It’s like a design showroom. It’s amazing.

Dan Pelosi: I like to design in collections. I have my art collection on one wall, my textile collection, my ceramic collection. It feels almost like a little prop house, but also a house.

Kirk Bachmann: I love the comments about your aunt. I’m right there with you. I grew up in a European household. At a moment’s notice, whether it was Grandma or Mom, they were ready to host. Out of nowhere, there could be an apple strudel. I don’t know if it’s an East Coast thing, a Europe thing, or a West thing, but I see, on occasion, where the friend will call. “Hey, we’re coming over.” Rather than being ready for us, they’re like, “Hey, can you stop and pick up a pizza.” Which is fine.

Dan Pelosi: But a lot, too. For sure.

Kirk Bachmann: Either’s good. Are we getting back to that, or have we lost our way, that we’re not ready to host at a moment’s notice.

Dan Pelosi: One thing I’ve learned about the world through this experience is we all come from such different experiences. There are the great uniters, and there is no way that you can ever assume that someone had the same experience as you did. I have gone to people’s houses who say, “Hey, come over for dinner at seven.” I get there at seven, and they’re still pulling groceries out of the shopping bag. I’m like, “Oh, we’re not going to eat until ten because you’re making a roast chicken.” If I tell you to come over at seven, we’re eating at 7:10, and then I’m kicking out at 9:30.” I don’t know what we’re getting back to or what’s happening. Who knows?

I do know that my energy is very much that. There are two chapters in my book that are all about having a hero recipe on hand – in the freezer, in the fridge – so that at a moment’s notice, you can make a lasagna or you can make some cinnamon rolls, or whatever. I know that that makes me happy. If you come to my house, you will be fed. You may have just eaten a five-course meal, but I will put food in front of you. You will also go to other people’s houses and they’ll barely “make” you a glass of water. And all of those things are valid.

What I love about going to people’s homes is seeing how they live their life. While I may have raging anxiety sitting at your house with no food or drink in front of me, that’s okay. I was raised differently. Does that make sense?

Live, Laugh, Love

Kirk Bachmann: It makes total sense, and it’s appreciated.

You’ve mentioned that you live in a rainbow and that your motto is to live, laugh, and love. I’m wondering how those concepts stay with your food consistently.

Dan Pelosi: Absolutely. I always tell people with my food: with my food, with your food, people always want a recipe to be validated. I get asked for permission by everyone, all the time. “Grossy, can I use canned corn in your fresh corn tomato pasta?”

I’m like, “Why are you asking me? Yeah, you can. Who’s watching you? Is the government watching you? I say that not because I’m annoyed, I’m just like, “Give yourself a break. Give yourself [permission].” If you don’t have the fresh corn, use canned corn. It’s corn. It’s fine. You don’t have corn, use something else. I think that’s the “live.” Live! Don’t put a wall in between you and the food or the recipe. It doesn’t matter if you nailed it the same way that I did. Did you eat it? Great. You’re living, you’re eating, you’re breathing. We’re happy.

I think the laughing for me comes from the nostalgia, the sense of humor, the way that I write about my recipes, some of the ways that I name my recipes. I think that people, when they started reading my recipes – which I didn’t start writing recipes until June of 2020 formally – they were like, “You are writing these recipes as if you’re standing in the kitchen next to me just hanging out and teaching me how to cook.”

I was like, Okay, that is exactly how I learned how to cook. That makes total sense, and I need to really hero that because I think it puts people at ease, hopefully, when they are cooking alongside someone who perhaps they respect or think they know what they’re doing. Also, if you throw a few zingers in there, it shakes down their nerves. That’s been the “laugh” of it all.

And I think the love is the moments when I’m sharing those really emotional moments with my family, or people are sharing emotional moments through my recipes with their families. The best thing that’s ever happened to me in the past three and a half years is someone reached out to me around the holidays. Holiday cookies are a big thing for me.

They said, “Grossy. I just need you to know that my grandma died, and she took her peanut butter blossom recipe with her to the grave. I made your recipe for my family, and we all decided that your recipe is now Grandma’s recipe.”

I was like, “I’m done.” What more, for me, could I possibly want than to hear that? If I could bring back your grandmother’s cookie from the grave, and you now take my recipe and call it Grandma’s recipe? There you go.

Kirk Bachmann: Mission accomplished.

Speaking of which, a pragmatic example, a real example: Gretchen makes the viral vodka sauce, it’s what I call it. She’s done it with the coconut. What I appreciate is that, to your point, it’s up to you to make it this traditional way or you can go over here and do the coconut way.

Dan Pelosi: I’m happy if you’re in the kitchen. If I’ve been the carrot on the string to get you into the kitchen, then that is enough for me. I do not need you to follow my recipe exactly, play around. I do tell people who are anxious or nervous about cooking that you really should follow a recipe as written the first time, just because that chef has made it – or that cook – has made it so that you learn how to make that recipe as intended. Now, whether or not you do that is fine with me, but I think then you can go off, and that person may understand better if frozen corn or fresh corn or canned corn will work in the recipe because you’ve experienced the recipe as intended.

In a perfect world, which doesn’t exist, I do love that people would do that. But I also would never want to stop someone from eating my recipe because they don’t have fresh corn. Use the canned corn. Go for it.

The Grossery List and the Cookbook

Kirk Bachmann: Where did the “Grossery List” come from? I can make it up, but for those who aren’t familiar with it, it’s brilliant.

Dan Pelosi: The Grossery List came out of function for me. I was so fortunate that everything I did, I used, I spoke of, I showed, I would be like, “This tape is in the corner of the photo.” People would be like, “Where’s that tape from?” It just became link after link after link. So immediately, as I was building a website, I was like, “I need to have my faves.” I need a list so if someone says, “Grossy, where’s that tape from?” I can say, “It’s on the Grocery List. It’s on the Grocery List. It’s on the Grocery List.” And I love a pun, so I just put the two S’s instead of the list and called it Grossery List.

Now, my friends make fun of me when we’re all hanging out on Fire Island. I’ll be like, “Where’s the salt?” They’ll be like, “It’s on the Grossery List.” I’ve built my own prison.

Kirk Bachmann: Perfect segue to talk about your debut cookbook, “Let’s Eat: Recipes to Fill Your Heart and Your Home.” I believe that by the time our chat airs, the book will be available for purchase online, Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart. I pre-ordered mine. I have to share that Gaby, your dear friend. We adore her. Here’s what she said, “You can feel his passion for food and life shine through on every single page. ‘Let’s Eat’ is filled to the brim with recipes to nourish your family, your friends, and most importantly yourself.” How sweet is that? Is that what you want that book to be?

Dan Pelosi: I do. I do. I think everyone who I ask: I asked some friends, and I reached out to some people who I didn’t really know to blurb the book. Everyone just really got it. One of my favorite ones, if I can read it, comes from Busy Philipps, whom I’ve been following. Do you know who Busy Philipps is?

Kirk Bachmann: No.

Dan Pelosi: She’s an actress. I’ve been following her on Instagram. She has a relentless Instagram presence that I love. She says, “My dreams of cooking like the adorable, old-time grandma I never had have been realized thanks to Dan’s gorgeous and hilarious cookbook.” I was like, “That’s exactly it.”

There’s just some really great quotes, and everyone really captured the energy. It just makes me so happy.

Kirk Bachmann: I was going to ask you a question to share something, so thank you for that. What about the Early Dismissal Pot Roast and zabaione?

Dan Pelosi: Do you want me to talk about those recipes?

Kirk Bachmann: Would you please?

Dan Pelosi: I love the quick, easy, throw-together-at-the-last minute recipes, but I also love a Sunday simmerer, I call them. I love [that] the whole house smells good, and you’re sitting around, and you’re cozy, and you’re waiting for that pot roast to come out of the oven.

Now my mother, when I was in high school, would do them, not on the weekend, but she would do on the weeknight. She’d be like, “We’re having pot roast on a Thursday.” That took a while to be done by our 5:30 or 6 o’clock dinner time. So she would send me to school when she was making pot roast with a note that said, “Please let Dan out of school early.” It was because I had to go home and put the pot roast [into the oven.]

Kirk Bachmann: Unbelievable.

Dan Pelosi: It is so my family’s energy. I can’t even. I just love that story. So not only did I really want to make a pot roast recipe – and I’m obsessed with that one – but I had to tell that little story.

Not Perfection

Kirk Bachmann: It’s fun that there are stories. What I tell new instructors all the time is that when students came to culinary school 30 years ago, 20 years ago, they had to come to culinary school because that’s where knowledge was kept. Today, knowledge is everywhere, so I ask my instructors to be facilitators of knowledge. Just be facilitators of knowledge. Don’t get too hung up on it.

What, in your mind, as you’re an educator, because you’re educating over 100,000 people, how do you want them to approach learning from you? Tough question.

Dan Pelosi: No, it’s not. People look at me, and I say this because I know that they do. I don’t say this because I want them to. They – some people – look at everything that I have and they think that they can’t have it. There’s this sense of perfection or like I’m special. I can’t scream, “I’m Every Woman” harder enough. I’m just a regular girl. I say it to people all the time. I have all the same access to everything that you do. Yes, brands send me things, and all that stuff, but they send them to me because things are available to purchase. I get sort of asked all the time, “Where do you get your Duke’s mayonnaise. I wish I could get Duke’s mayonnaise here.”

“Where are you? Are you in Siberia? Order it online!” I’m just trying to tell people that one thing you can learn from me is that you can have everything I have. I’m here with you to help. I’m not here to set expectations of perfection. I’m not here to tell you you’ve done something right or wrong. I’m not here to create recipes that make you feel bad about yourself. I’m here to just be your friend at the potluck – actually, I don’t go to potlucks – your friend at the summer barbecue who maybe brought the best potato salad, but wants to share the recipe with you. That’s me.

I think that mistakes are the way to learn. When I make recipes and I test them, the only way I know what’s good is to know what’s bad. If you make the vodka sauce once and it doesn’t work, that’s great. Now you know what’s wrong. Text me or DM me; I’ll help you out. I’m right there with you. I’m failing as much as you’re failing. Failing is how you learn. Take a break. There’s a lot of other hard things to do in life. Feeding yourself and having a nice time with your friends and family should not be one of them.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s a great way to be a mentor.

Tell us a little bit about how Food52 came about, the Secret Sauce.

Dan Pelosi: I love Food52. They’re a great food media company. They had approached me about working together. I did some YouTube episodes of cooking in the home or in your kitchen, where I made some food in my kitchen. We were talking about doing a YouTube series, and they asked me if I would be willing to host something that wasn’t about my recipes, that was about other people’s recipes, because they were really looking to shine a light on their community. Food52 is all about community recipes. That’s how they started. Every recipe on the site is contributed by community members.

I thought, “Wow, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to go to community members’ homes, and I want them to teach me their family recipe.” In the same way I was talking about standing next to someone and learning from them in the kitchen. And I also just love people’s houses and peeking around, holding the picture of their grandmother and sobbing.

I just thought it was so fun to do that. So that’s what the premise of the show is. It’s going to different community members, different cooks, and really learning their favorite family recipe and more from them. Taking up space, walking through the door and saying, “I live here now.”

I take up emotional, physical, and other space.

This Too Shall Pasta

Kirk Bachmann: What about “This too shall pasta?” I’ve got a whole list for you.

Dan Pelosi: I told you you’re going to need a safe word, because I’ll talk forever. This is going to be a two-parter. My air conditioning is on, and I’m hydrated, and I have a tan, so I’m unstoppable.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I love it.

Chef: This too shall pasta, I mentioned earlier, as soon as the pandemic started and people started finding me, they quickly realized that I have a language and a way of existing that they wanted [to be a] part of. They were like, “Where’s the Grossy merch? I want Grossy merch.” And merch is – you know how merch is. Merch from a brand or a sports team.

I was like, Okay. Here I am. There’s a global pandemic. We’re a month in. I have a full-time job in a corporation. I’m fine. I’m working from home. I’m building this second career. I didn’t really know at the time that I was, but it felt like something was happening. I was gaining all these Instagram followers.

“I can’t sell merch for profit. That would be absolutely insane of me. There’s so many people that need help.” So I decided to sell merch to support an organization called SAGE, which I knew about because of a program called SAGE Table. SAGE is an organization, the nation’s oldest and largest organization that supports LGBTQ elders. Global pandemic, this is their second global pandemic, after AIDS, which was their first global pandemic. If they are a gay elder, they survived that, which is just mind-blowing to think about that. Now, they are two times less likely to have a partner, four times less likely to have children. How are they being supported during the pandemic? SAGE is the organization that was feeding them, that was providing services, getting them medication.

So I said, “If people want merch, I’m going to use the light that’s on me to raise money.” I came up with the phrase “This too shall pasta,” as sort of a “This too shall pass,” and the connection and community through food will help us get through this pandemic.

The shirt just took off. I’ve been selling variations of it now for three and half years. We’ve raised almost $70,000 for SAGE, which really makes me so, so happy and honored.

You Have to Do

Kirk Bachmann: It’s absolutely beautiful, Dan. Truly.

I wanted to ask, if you’re okay with sharing not necessarily secrets, but words of wisdom. We have students from all walks of life who will listen to this episode and be inspired by you and our teachers. I’m not trying to suggest for one second that it’s easy, but they’ll say, “I want to write a cookbook,” or they want to do something. They want to be an influencer, or they want to do something really meaningful. It’s a lot of work, and I’m going to assume that most people understand that.

But what words of advice would you give to someone who is at least thinking about, “I don’t want to stand behind the line. I’d like to do something different in a hospitality industry?”

Dan Pelosi: I think the words of advice that I have for them is to just do it. There is no secret sauce. Right? You have to do. You can’t sit around and think about it.

Kirk Bachmann: Just do it.

Dan Pelosi: And prove yourself the concept. Proof of concept. I made a decision at the end of 2019, which was a really hard year for me for a couple of reasons – I won’t get into them – and I was depressed. My therapist was like, “You’re depressed.”

I thought, “Okay, what can I do to turn the boat around?” I had the knowledge that I loved food, and I had an Instagram. I had my Instagram, which was free; it didn’t cost me anything. I was like, “I’m going to stop taking pictures of butterflies and things that I find on the street, and paintings, and I’m going to really focus my Instagram on food.”

This was December of 2019 when I threw my cookie party. And I realized at my cookie party, which was my sixth or seventh year of doing it, “This is just the best day of the year. I should really just, in my spare time, focus my energy on food and see what happens.” Little did I know that four months later there would be a global pandemic, and I was setting myself up for everything to change.

It was really just an emotional and intentional shift to make myself happier to focus on food. Because I knew that was one thing that gave me joy without a doubt. Whether I dropped the cake on the floor, or if I eat the whole thing in the dark crying, or I’m eating it celebrating with my friends. It brought me some sort of sense of peace.

That was it. That’s what happened. Everything else just took off from there. I know it sounds magical and woo-woo, but I located my joy, and then I decided to spend more time focusing on it. That was it, and I didn’t sit there and just think about it, I did it.

Kirk Bachmann: Just do it.

Dan Pelosi: Ask me about my fitness routine, and it’ll be the opposite. But for me, I was able to do that, and I acted on it, and it paid off.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s absolutely wonderful. Thank you for sharing that.

Now, we know about the book. Is there anything else you can share? I don’t know how you- you’re busy, busy, busy. How do you get another project going? Is there a movie coming out?

Dan Pelosi: Rosie O’Donnell is playing me in my autobiography. No. I’ve had some stuff. I’ve got all kinds of fun stuff happening. I have my book tour, which I’m focusing a lot on. This year is about my book, for me. I want this book to sell. I want to write a lot more books. I’m really focused on managing that.

I’ve got some fun brand partnerships coming up. I just moved, so the apartment that you saw in my home tour is no longer where I live. I moved in with my boyfriend into a very sweet little place a block away.

One thing that’s a secret that people will know about, when this comes out, is that I’m buying a home in upstate New York, which I’m going to turn it, over time – because it takes money – turn into a really fun space to continue to cook and grow the GrossyPelosi experience.

Kirk Bachmann: Wonderful. Congratulations.

Dan Pelosi: It’s been a goal of mine for forever. That’s the secret. Secret’s out.

Dan Pelosi’s Ultimate Dish

Kirk Bachmann: I got the secret. I’ve got it written down.

So Dan, the name of the podcast – this is probably the toughest question of all, or maybe the easiest question. The name of the podcast is The Ultimate Dish. So, in your mind, what is the ultimate dish? There was no prep for this! No prep! But I knew you were going

Dan Pelosi: [Meatballs.]

Kirk Bachmann: And there was no prep for this. No prep, but I knew you were going to say meatballs.

Dan Pelosi: Yeah, meatball. I mean, it just is, I self-identify as a meatball. It is my gender. I love it. You get your hands in it. You mix the meat. You form the balls. You cook them, and you let them simmer in the sauce. The flavor grows, and they taste better over time. I’ve got a couple different variations of meatballs. I’ve got a vegetarian meatball in the book. Everyone puts different things in them, and I love how controversial the fact that I put raisins in mine is. Everyone freaks out about it. I just think they’re such a good unifier. You can make a sandwich. You can have them for breakfast. You can throw them at someone. They’re just so fun. I love them, and I love that I call Bimpy up and he’s like, “I’m making a hundred meatballs.” It’s just ridiculous. Meatballs – the whole idea makes me happy.

Kirk Bachmann: That’s the ultimate dish. Where’s the raisins? Where’s that come from.

Dan Pelosi: It’s a family thing on my end, but it’s Sicilian to put raisins and pine nuts in your meatballs. In my family, we did not do pine nuts, but we do do raisins. I love it. It’s a savory-sweet surprise. People are very passionate about raisins. It’s actually why I started saying, “Don’t yuck my yum,” because people got so freakin’ rude about the fact that I put raisins in meatballs. Meanwhile, you just leave them out. The raisins are a very special family thing for me, and I think people are skeptical or their in right from the beginning. Either way is fine. If you leave the raisins out, that’s great, too. There you go.

Kirk Bachmann: I love it. I love it. What a fun chat! Dan, congratulations on all the success, the new house, the book. Everything. I was going to emphasize, Live, laugh and love. What a blast this has been!

Dan Pelosi: Thank you so much. I just want to say, it’s now Live, Laugh, Love and buy my book! That’s the fourth part of it.

Kirk Bachmann: Oh my God, I love it!

Dan Pelosi: But thank you. I had to say that, if it wasn’t implied.

Kirk Bachmann: Absolutely perfect. Thank you from my family, Gretchen, and everybody. All the students are going to have so much fun.

Dan Pelosi: I can’t wait.

Kirk Bachmann: And thank you for listening to the Ultimate Dish podcast, brought to you by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. Visit escoffier.edu/podcast, where you’ll find any materials mentioned during the podcast, including notes, links and other resources. And if you can, please leave us a rating on Apple or Spotify, and subscribe to support our show. This helps us to reach more aspiring individuals ready to take the next step toward their dream careers. Thanks for listening.

Recent Podcasts

Request More Information
Campus of Interest*
Program of Interest*

Clicking the "Send Request" button constitutes your express request, and your express written consent, to be contacted via phone, text, and/or emails by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts at the number(s)/email you provided, regarding furthering your education and enrolling. You understand that these calls may be generated using an automated technology. You are not required to agree to receive automated calls, texts, or emails as a condition of enrolling at Escoffier. You can unsubscribe at any time or request removal of street address, phone number, email address via Escoffier website.

Is Culinary School Right For You?
Take This Short Quiz