Being the Hallmark aficionado that I am, I am definitely a fan of the weekday show Home & Family. Even though I don’t consistently have the opportunity to watch all the segments every single day, there are some names embedded in my memory and various segments that are genuinely unforgettable. And “Renegade Kitchen” is decidedly one of those. Then again, I am the cook in my household, and it is something I have continuously enjoyed doing for my family and friends throughout my life. Recently, I caught up with Dan Kohler (“Renegade Kitchen”) and he graciously answered a few questions about his career and the path to his becoming somewhat of a household name amongst Hallmark fans.
RH: What is it that drew you to seek a career in entertainment? What kind of training have you had in acting?
DK: I started acting in high school at the behest of my sister (who was four years older than me and had already progressed through our school’s theater program by the time I started ninth grade). I fell in love with storytelling and though I told myself I would never major in theater, once I reached college, I was a fool to delude myself thusly. I went to Northwestern University and studied theater with some incredible professors and never once regretted the decision.
I am filled with energy every time I have the opportunity to share stories with an audience, be it one person or 60,000. I always thought a career in entertainment would be impractical, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to live a life as a performer.
At the same time, cooking is a passion of yours. What do you think fostered that passion?
I grew up in a household full of food allergies, which meant that we often spent a lot of time in the kitchen together cooking meals and figuring out new concoctions. My parents are very passionate about nutrition and ecology, so trips to the farmer’s market were regular and much adored in our family.
It seems like most of your acting has been on stage. Please tell us about a one of your special onstage shows that was most memorable.
One of the best experiences I had in theater was when I toured the country with the Pre-Broadway tryout of Flashdance, The Musical. Though the show was eventually canceled and never reached Broadway, I had the opportunity to work with highly talented and skilled actors and dancers for almost a year as we built the show with the creative team and then took it on the road. Touring with a musical is challenging, It’s exhausting, but it’s also thrilling. We performed in twenty-eight cities, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Being a theater professional is full of joy, but it’s also emotionally draining at times. I am fortunate to have had a few successes, but in between those successes was a lot of empty space. I am not someone who sits still easily, and so I decided to start posting some family recipes online in order to give me something to do while I was auditioning for the next gig. I built a website and then realized it wasn’t going to get any traction without video content, so I hired a few film students and told them we were going to shoot a cooking show. The material we produced was terrible, but it was also very rewarding to see something through to the finish line.
Within a few months, I was contacted by a large food organization looking for more web content. They asked if they could hire me to produce videos for them, and I jumped at the chance. Over the next few years, Renegade Kitchen turned into a media company, responsible for producing digital videos for a number of national food brands.
I love that I get to perform and educate at the same time now. I can take all the passion about food that my parents instilled in me as a kid and turn it into something fun for a lot of people to watch.
What was the reception to your show?
Renegade Kitchen did quite well; it was very flattering to be picked up by a few national food brands and hired as their video producer.
In 2013, I filmed a pilot for a kids’ food TV show. It was based on Bill Nye’s brilliant formula, but applied to food. We taught our audiences how food grows, how we get it, and what it looks like around the world. My agents shopped the pilot around for a while, and though no one bought it, one of the producers at Home & Family saw it and asked if I wanted to be a guest chef on the show. I flew to LA, appeared twice in one week, and then the executive producer asked if I’d like to become a permanent member of the show.
Any upcoming projects you can mention?
I’m currently finishing up a novel (as I said earlier, I don’t sit still very well). I know the path to publication can be arduous and long, but perhaps in the next year you’ll be able to find my name along the spine of a book!
When it comes to food books (cookbooks in particular), I don’t have any plans right now to publish anything. I’m working on a top-secret digital project that has been taking most of my focus. It may take a while to reach the mass market, but I’ll hint that it’s a very interactive, digital food tool.
What are your favorite meals to make and eat?
I cook and eat a lot of Asian food. One of my parents is Chinese, so I grew up eating a lot of Cantonese home cooking. When I go out, I’m always on the hunt for some new flavor; I love exploring various ethnic neighborhoods.
When you have free time, what do you like to do?
I make a lot of artwork. I’ve just finished a series of digital prints based on the people I used to see at my Brooklyn YMCA over the years, and I’m also in the process of making some linoleum block prints of animals (see pictures below)
I think the thing that the populace remembers about Dan is his limitless vigor, especially whenever he is on the screen. After reviewing Dan’s responses, I sense that I comprehend more fully his passion for all aspects of food from instruction to preparation to consumption. But more significantly, I believe that he is a driven individual in every aspect of his life, and as a result, he is accomplishing immensely impressive things. When one of those proverbial doors closes or refuses to open, Dan is not one who is going to capitulate. He will not rest until he finds a way to bring his vision to fruition. It may take awhile, but his fierce determination to his principles and his ambitions will ultimately propel him towards the fulfillment of his innermost ambitions. That is, until he is onto the next project since he doesn’t like being idle (oh, I totally relate to that!). If you have the opportunity and inclination, I invite all of my readers to check out Renegade Kitchen on Hallmark’s Home & Family show if you have not done so already. Moreoever, please consider checking out and following Dan at all the links below so that when he unveils this super secret project, you’ll be the first to know! Oh, and I would say supporting someone as talented, kind, and authentic as he is a worthwhile and appreciated endeavor as well.
FOLLOW DAN (RENEGADE KITCHEN)
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