Over the previous few years, Lee’s Substack has amassed an viewers of greater than 4,500 complete subscribers, leading to appearances on high-profile podcasts like The Sporkful with Dan Pashman and Chewing with Louisa Chu and Monica Eng. However the publication continues to be someplace between a labor of affection and a aspect hustle: He earns nearly $20,000 a 12 months from paid subscriptions—which surpassed his expectations, however isn’t sufficient for him to surrender his day job as a correspondent overlaying extra standard food-related information for The Takeout, a meals tradition web site.
What distinguishes the content material on Meals Is Silly from immediately’s viral rage-bait recipes like TikTok tabletop nachos and ice cream sundaes scooped into bathroom bowls is Lee’s methodology. “I’d by no means consider making any of his recipes, however generally once I learn his stuff I feel, ‘This actually is sensible from a cooking standpoint,’” says Dave Park, the chef of Jeong, a Korean high quality eating restaurant in Chicago’s West City. Lee’s legit kitchen chops—he labored in knowledgeable pizza kitchen for 5 years—make many cooks really feel much more clued in on the joke, regardless of how outlandish his recipes get.
“Dennis is like ‘Bizarre Al’ Yankovic,” says Kenji López-Alt, a chef and writer of The Meals Lab cookbook. “Bizarre Al is technically nice. He’s an ideal musician, and he treats his songs severely, however the subject material is ridiculous.” Meals writers, who are sometimes anticipated to take meals severely for a residing, revel within the silliness. “He doesn’t get caught considering of meals as this holy, valuable factor that we’re not allowed to fuck round with,” says Rosner. “The reality is: meals is silly. Discovering freedom in that stupidity is so liberating.”
In individual, Lee is nothing like his publication persona. He generally is a bit shy, however an occasional sinister giggle will remind you of the mad scientist lurking behind his cherubic seems and mild-mannered demeanor. His spouse Davida makes cameo appearances within the publication as a reluctant taste-tester, however lots of his mutant creations are too scary for her to pattern. Even Lee was shocked when she took a chew of his Puppy Chow puppy chow—a riff on the Midwestern confection, which is usually made with Chex cereal tossed in peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar. Lee replaces the Chex with precise Pet Chow, the pet food. He wasn’t shocked when she spit it into a close-by rubbish can inside seconds. “Often, I wait to see if he spits it out first earlier than I attempt it,” she says.