DON’T CALL THEM FOODIES

A chat about cooking, eating and the meat of advertising (apologies for the lame pun)

By day, they work in advertising. Jake is a creative director/writer and Michael is an art director. They spend most of their day working on clients like L.L.Bean and Walgreens, but when it comes to their meals, they do not mess around.

Both of these guys find great joy in preparing and eating food.

Jake got his start at the young age of 14, washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant and making meals for his big Italian family with his grandfather. Coming from a small town, he describes cooking as “way better than sitting around and doing nothing.” Until his first day at GSD&M, he worked in various restaurants.

“It was always a job I could have, no matter where I was. And when you leave, it gets in your blood.”

There’s no kicking the obsession with food now. He cures meats, he brews beer, and he even grows food in his garden that his two-year-old daughter Phoebe helps him cultivate. He shares some of his food-tales and recipes on his blog Leave Me the Oink.

Michael didn’t always love food. He actually was a picky eater until college. When he started cooking for himself, he slowly became more into the art of it all until food became the most important thing in his life. He studied advertising at UT, went to New York to work at an agency, but soon realized he needed to cook more. Michael enrolled in culinary school in Dallas and eventually ended up working at an upscale restaurant in town.

“It was trial by fire…Completely unlike anything else,” he says. Michael went from the fast-paced advertising industry to the even faster-paced restaurant lifestyle as a line cook.

Today’s he’s back to advertising, but still spends lots of time cooking and photographing his work on his blog Tongue and Tooth.

It’s no coincidence that both Jake and Michael’s day jobs shine through on their food blogs. Jake documents the process. He’s thoughtful and descriptive, finding new and different ways to talk about food besides “it tastes good.”

Michael, on the other hand, is all about the look and feel. He plates everything and photographs it with the precision of an art director.

“Everything should be based around making something that’s functional. It needs to be easy to eat with a simple way of bringing the flavors together.” But he takes it beyond function, “Food is beautiful by nature and I want it to look that way.”

I asked them some questions about food and their jobs (mostly food). Check out their responses below.

Tell me about life as a creative/cook. 

Jake: As a creative in advertising you work on projects that are not always tangible. There are scripts and ideas that don’t always pan out — that’s a part of the business. For me cooking is therapeutic because there’s a beginning, middle and end that is very satisfying.

Michael: Cooking professionally, you don’t have time to think about it… it’s just about the result. Advertising is all about the process to getting to the final product, but with cooking it’s about finishing it efficiently and in time.

Every day is a set arc – you get to the end and it feels awesome every day. It’s fulfilling on a level that nothing else is.

When asked to do this interview, both of you were strongly opposed to being called “foodies.” Why do you hate the word “foodie” so much?

Jake: It seems oddly pretentious. I like to cook and eat. I like to drink beer. Call it what you want.

Michael: It’s just like calling someone a “hipster”. Everyone loves food.

How do you feel about reality TV cooking shows?

Jake: I hate 80% of them. I do like Molto Mario on the Food Network and Top Chef. But when they get too gimmicky, it’s hard for me to take.

Michael: There’s a lot more that hate than like. Good Eats with Alton Brown is my favorite. I also like Top Chef.

Favorite thing to cook

Jake: I love to grill with wood. Anything that involves standing outside over the fire.

Michael: Mackerel – I love cooking with oily fish.

Favorite kind of cheese

Jake: Parmigiano-Reggiano

Michael: Manchego

Favorite farmers’ market

Jake: I miss the one in San Diego, they can grow anything out in that climate. But Barton Creek is solid also.

Michael: The Republic Square one in Austin is great. Union Square Green Market in New York is the best though. You can find anything there.

Favorite place to eat in Austin

Jake: Barley Swine. Texas Chili Parlor is 2nd.

Michael: The sushi bar at Uchiko – I can’t find anywhere that I like more.

Favorite place to eat on planet Earth

Jake: Quinn’s Pub in Seattle. It’s not fancy, it’s a comfort decision.

Michael: Shanghai Café Deluxe in Chinatown NYC at the big round table

Check out the gallery of food pictures below. Try not to salivate on your keyboard:

By Adele Hazan