The Food in this Town (2): Dave

by Kate Djupe

I have had an opportunity to read some food magazines lately.

According to them, really, truly delicious food is expensive. It also takes a great deal of special equipment to prepare. It is made by talented, highly trained individuals that have long winded, ethereal views on food. And they only use ingredients that require knowing a foreign language, a connection with a reclusive forager, and some medical training. In short, really truly delicious food is inaccessible to most people. At least, according to these magazines. And those tv shows and some of these restaurant reviews and any marketing of events featuring multiple chefs.

In the next paragraph, I am usually told that I can try to recreate these dishes at home, but it is going to be really time consuming, very complicated and technical, and any disappointment in the final product will be a reflection of my own failings in the kitchen. Instead, we all should consider taking our big bank accounts directly to the source and throw money at the passion! the love! the art! In each bite, we can taste the hours and hours and days meticulously refining each part to this awe inspiring whole that was carefully crafted to have us weeping by the last drop!


And then I remember, "We are all just cooks and bakers." I remember the food that makes me feel full and happy and truly satisfied has never felt uptight. I remember how surprisingly easy it was the first time I made a cheese. How perfectly average that uber complicated, multiple paged recipe ended up tasting. And I remember the reason why I started this series of blog posts.

If we stop buying this story that our food needs to be cerebral or a perfectly manipulated fine piece of art, we will find that there are transcendent meals, prepared on the cheap, in each of our neighborhoods. These talented cooks and bakers may downplay their kitchen experiments; they might even shun the titles "chef", "cook" or "baker". Fools, I say. Incredibly talented, fascinating, generous fools.

Finding these hidden gems can take a remarkable amount of dumb luck. Or this series of blog posts, because I am about to spill some secrets. It is up to you to woo them, befriend them, or just ask for a sample of their wares. 


This actual series of posts (there is a long list of people and places to come) was inspired by my early morning drive to pick up some bread that didn't meet one man's standards of perfection.

It was a trip straight from either a mystery novel or a classic No Reservations setup. There was some prowling around an innocent, sleepy neighborhood in the dark of the early morning. A knock on a door before slipping inside. And the feeling of instant intoxication off of the heady smells of fresh baked bread that filled the house.

Oh man.


Do you know about Pizza Dave? You know, the Weber grill modifying Dave? The master of all things yeasty or fermented Dave? The fifth most popular Dave on the planet?

Meet SeligmansDog Dave.

I don't want to sound hysterical when I write this, but I really want you to believe me when I say:

Dave bakes the crackliest crust, perfectly crumbed extraordinary breads in his own home. He brews beer. He is ridiculously kind, generous and humble. And an invite to a Firedome pizza party on his back deck is one of the single most coveted tickets in my world.

It all happens in just another neighborhood and that bothers me because - well - do his neighbors have any idea? Oh man, is there someone in my own neighborhood I should be wooing? 


I met Dave when he was asking people for any Weber grill lids that they were not using. I had one and he was doing interesting things with them. Isn't this how all people meet?

It took only one modified Weber grill lid (Firedome) pizza party to realize the range of Dave's experiments.

Me: Which came first the pizza or the bread baking or the beer?

Dave: Pizza.  Motivated by hunger and limited funds in graduate school, I needed a fix cheaper than Pizza Hut.  My first tutorial was provided by a fellow grad student, a Sicilian named Franco, using James McNair's Pizza. I was never able to reproduce Franco's beautiful creations, but my own developed well enough.

Me: What does perfection look like in your kitchen?

Dave: It doesn't exist.  I'm not a perfectionist.  Life is too short; I'd rather do more things at 80% than fewer at 100%, unless it's a baguette.  But, I'm happiest when my kitchen has a few people eating and drinking and I'm cooking for them.  It's even better when my "kitchen" is by my grill. 

Me: Do you have bakery or pizza shop dreams (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease)?

Dave: Never.  Not once.  Maybe. My problem is I'm not devoted enough to any one thing.  Lots of people can make pizza, so that's out. Maybe a bakery, but I don't know if there's a demand.  Lots of people will express interest, but will the busy parent go out of their way in a hot car with screaming Timmy for a loaf of bread?  I have fantasized about bread delivery, but don't know if I could make a living doing that, life's expensive.  I'm a schemer though.  Romance aside, there is nothing about baking bread that can't be automated AND be as good as by hand, nothing.  This idea and the implications keep me doodling and thinking.

Me: Your blog is a notebook full of ratios, enviable scientific tools and creative problem solving. I don't really know what the question is - do you see yourself as a food scientist or baker?  Is it the methodology or the results that drive you? Are you a scientist in all of your kitchen experiments?

Dave: I interviewed with Proctor and Gamble as I was leaving grad school. The recruiter was describing the hydrolytic instability of aspartame at high temps explaining why it couldn't be used in cake mixes.  I was mesmerized.  He tried to convince me the molecular complexity of food science problems wouldn't be as engaging as that of  drug synthesis. I begged him to let me make that choice, but I didn't get the job.  I ended up at big pharma as a scientist for 10 or so years. Gotta pay the bills.

I get the most satisfaction when I make a good idea into something great; I'm fundamentally a development person applying my interests to anything in the kitchen. In that context, I'm passionate about process measurement.  Accurate and inexpensive measurement tools have proliferated in the past 15 years, it's a great time to be a geek.

Me: You bake breads for your daughter's teachers. Have you noticed an improvement in your daughter's report cards? Do you get report cards on your bread?

Dave: Sharing with the teachers is one of my favorite things to do.  They enjoy it, I get to scale up a bit, win/win.  Giving teachers treats wasn't meant to be a bribe, but it can't hurt.  Most of the teachers are native western Europeans and are a great practice crowd for just about any bread.  They don't just pop a roll down the hatch and say thanks, they are thankful in a most sincere way.  I'm not sure how honest they are, but they do seem to like the samples so far.  And Frankie graduated valedictorian from K, 1st and 2nd grades!

Me: What are you currently experimenting with in your kitchen (or bar)?

Dave: I've brewed beer for more than a decade, mostly extract and the beer was good. When my wife and I lived in Baltimore, Ken Follet visited us to use Trish as a model character for his book The Third Twin. He had some of my brew one day, took a long pause, smiled and said, pleasantly surprised, "that's really good." I was in heaven, a real Brit liked my beer.  In Frankie's early years I stopped brewing, then re-started, then went all grain, then had many problems, and now I'm back to partial mash and my brown ale - sometimes hoppy, sometimes malty - is starting to kick ass.  I'm finally coming out of a very long brew slump.  That's my current buzz. But, I rarely write about brewing, nor enter contests.  I prefer to be a loner in brewing until it comes to sharing final product.  
Me: What food or drink eludes you - what is missing from your life and haunts your belly?

Dave: Big volume and shelf life in breads!  I want to know what gives Wonder bread an infinite shelf life and cloud-like volume and see if some of that could be applied to more healthy and  grainful preparations.  The physicochemical explanations are tough to find, I spend some time in the food science literature, but it isn't my 9-to-5 and have only limited time to study it.  I'm also not a professional scientist anymore, no science community involvement, etc. and, frankly, cookbook authors suck.  I fantasize that a recruiter at ADM will read my blog and toss me an offer, but for now, I'm just a kitchen hack.

Me: Was there an experience that changed the way you thought about food?

Dave: Being served fried capicola with eggs and toast by my mother and growing up in Boston.  In my earlier years, there was never any extra attention given to food.  It just was special and everyone held identical core beliefs in this niche.  The defining moments of life coincided with feasts, snacks, drinks and rum cookies from Brandano's.  Immediately following the shock of the death of a close loved one was the quick decision one made to hire a caterer for after the wake. Produce at stores in my gritty hometown made Giant Eagle's look sick and farmer's markets look like boutiques.  Mindfulness of food can't be wrong, but I still find some food movements unnatural.

Me: What is your favorite "secret" (non-mainstream) food or drink source in Columbus? 


  • Asian Pears, Crestview market
  • French fries, Dairy Queen (Hudson and Indianola)
  • Brisket, Rayray's (Pacemont and N High)
  • Primo Pizza (mush / sausage) ONLY when served while at Studio35 watching a flick
  • Bells 2 Hearted pint ONLY while at Crest Tavern
  • Egyptian style feta and merguez, Mediterranean Food Imports (Dodridge and N High)
  • Anything from Curds and Whey

Me: Favorite ice cream: brand and flavor.

 Dave: I don't like ice cream and I think molecular gastronomists are obtuse.

Me: How about the best thing you have ever eaten?

Dave: I was in a place called Noodles Panini Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale last year and ordered the meatball sub. Each and every morsel of meatball, sauce and bread was perfect. Perfect.  I almost cried.

Me: What does someone have to do if they want to try your pizza or breads or beer?

Dave: Get my address (DM on Twitter) and let me know when you'll be stopping by or come by and we'll slap a baguette in the oven together while sampling a brew. I mean it.
(It's me again.) He really means it. He is a good man.

You're welcome.

While I work on the next post in this series, tell me: what is your favorite thing from Dave's kitchen? What is your favorite secret source for great food in this town?

Note: Most of the photos in this post were taken by Paul Djupe because he is awesome like that.