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Food & Fatherhood With Derek Campanile

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If you’re unfamiliar with food blogger, Derek Campanile, then that’s about to change. From his must-try recipes to his mouthwatering Instagram feed, there’s no denying that the perfect blend of creative inspiration and passion is always a click away. We caught up with the man behind Dad with a Pan to talk family, fatherhood, and of course...food.
"One of the biggest drivers in my life has been my children and my family."
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How did you get started in the food blogging industry and what do you love most about it?
I started about 3 years ago after a big push from my wife to put my recipes on the internet. I’ve been cooking for most of my life and thought this would be a great way to combine my love for family, food, and photography.
I love getting inspiration to try new recipes, and the competition with myself to come up with something new and better than my last recipe. Being able to do what I love to help support the family isn’t that bad either!
You’ve made it your mission to encourage other fathers and parents alike to sit down at the table to eat every night. Why do you feel this is important?
One of the things that shaped me the most growing up was sitting down at the table to eat dinner. It was a great way to end the day and having that was important to me as a child.
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Having a family of my own, with today’s distractions and fast-paced life, I understand how hard it is to get in some quality time with the family. I feel that being able to sit down with the ones you love while sharing great food (even if only 20-30 minutes a night) is a huge opportunity to keep a tight bond with your family.
What do you enjoy most about fatherhood?
The little things. Coming home after a bad day at work and hearing my son yell “Daddy!!”, with his arms wide open running to me for a hug. Saying hi to Kenzie and seeing her give me a little stinker face while shaking her hands up and down. That will turn any day around in a heartbeat. 
One of the biggest drivers in my life has been my children and my family. Nothing will motivate you more than having another person depend on you for food, shelter, and most of all, a loving home. I enjoy what that brings out in me as a father and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as we grow as a family.
Describe what life is like living in Orange County and tell us about some of your favorite go-to spots.
I’m a transplant from the Inland Empire and have only lived out in Orange County for about 6 years. I’ve gone from beach living to now closer to the hills. It doesn’t matter where you live out here, there’s not a bad view in the house.
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There’s so many spots to eat out here! The place that I love the most is out in Laguna Beach called La Sirena Grill. It was one of the first spots I discovered and have been eating there ever since. They have amazing food with awesome local craft beers. My favorite is getting their chicken nachos, but recently I have been really into the cilantro lime salad with carne asada.
You and your family recently moved into a new place. In your opinion, how do you make a house a home?
It’s turning a bunch of bare walls and floors into something that represents who lives there and who they are. For us right now,  that’s a growing family with a non-stop schedule and a high-spirited toddler jumping from one piece of furniture to the next.
And this is where my wife comes in. She brings that touch of love to a home that only a mother can. Every place that we’ve lived in she’s always made it a home for us by buying pieces of décor. From crafts and handmade art from the kids to plenty of portraits of the family all over the walls.
Not to mention, furniture that won’t split open a toddler’s chin after his latest professional wrestling stunt!
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Let’s talk food. With the warmer months, you can never go wrong with an outside BBQ, including mouth-watering sliders. What are some of your tips for crafting the perfect ones?
Keep the burger itself simple, just a little salt and pepper and maybe a little mustard on one side before you set it down on the grill. Let the flavor of the beef stand out on its own.
Then show your personality with the toppings. You can never go wrong with crispy fried jalapenos as a topping too!
How important is food presentation to you?
With kids? Food presentation can make or break your chance to get a picky toddler to eat. My son, as easy as it is to get him in the kitchen to help me cook, will not eat anything that doesn’t look appealing to him. If there’s anything out of place, or something snuck in there, he’ll sniff it out and pick it apart, only to eventually ask for some plain mac’n' cheese.
For my photography, food presentation is what I love most. I’m constantly trying to learn more about how to style, plate, and present to get mouths watering over the internet.
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Where do you typically draw inspiration from for your recipes?
So many ways. A lot of times it comes from what we’re craving for dinner that week. A few weeks ago, I bought lobster tails. They were on a killer sale and I had no plans to use them for the blog. My wife suggested we make nachos out of them, and then I couldn’t NOT put that on the blog! She’s been on a roll over the last few months with some great recipe suggestions.
I also like to see what’s trending in the foodie world and put my own spin on it. Sometimes I’ll be at a restaurant or watch a food show, and be like, “That’s good, I should make that, but do XYZ to it”. There’s been a few times where I’ve actually dreamt about a new recipe. It’s a little weird when that happens!
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Tell us about your personal style and how denim plays a major role.
I’d say my style is “fashionably functional” if that’s a thing? I like to wear clothes that are comfortable, but not baggy “dad pants with chunky dad shoes” comfortable. Although the chunky dad shoe is in style now...so maybe I should get in on that?
Denim is “life” as the kids say. When you’re a dad, you need a good pair of denim pants that will hold up to the day-to-day grind of work, coming home to help wrangle the kids, and weekend projects.
Lastly, how do you personally feel lucky?
So, here’s a funny story. My first pair of Lucky jeans was back in my band days about 12 years ago when we all thought it was so cool to wear girl jeans. Skinny pants weren’t really a thing yet for guys and the singer in the band, was the manager of a Lucky Brand store.
Keep up with Derek on Instagram: @dadwithapan
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