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John Adler on the Value of Customer Feedback

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About this episode

In this episode of The meez Podcast, we’re joined by special guest Chef John Adler, the Senior Vice President of Culinary and Physical Products at Blue Apron. John's culinary journey started in some of the world's finest kitchens, including working for chefs like Thomas Keller at Per Se and Chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. He also spent time at Michelin-starred restaurants across Spain and England before becoming the chef at the beloved Franny's in Brooklyn.

During the episode, John discusses what it was like to transition from the restaurant world to a large-scale institution like Blue Apron. He delves into the unique camaraderie and intimate connections formed in restaurant kitchens and how that differs from the corporate environment. John also shares how Blue Apron values customer feedback and constantly improves their recipes based on customer input. From recipe ratings to customer interviews, Blue Apron seeks to understand their customers' needs and preferences to create meaningful and delicious meals for homes across America.

Join host Josh and John in this insightful and heartwarming episode as they discuss the art of culinary innovation, the impact of recipes on people's lives, and the power of food to bring people together.

Where to find John Adler: 

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(2:19) John’s background

(5:59) How Josh and John first met

(7:57) Restaurant vs. Corporate environment

(13:09) How Blue Apron gets customer feedback

(17:59) Recipe R&D at Blue Apron

(23:18) Helping Home Cooks with the Basics

(26:50) What is the goal of Blue Apron?

(34:00) What skillsets translate from hospitality to technology? 

(35:25) The importance of the entire guest experience

(40:10) Soft skills in management

(46:10) Why John loves to cook

(51:29) The legacy and impact of food


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]:

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show. 


My guest today is Chef John Adler. John is the Senior Vice President of Culinary and Physical Products at Blue Apron. He has an incredible background in kitchens, having spent many years working for chefs like Thomas Keller at Per Se, and Chef Dan Barber at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and a bunch of Michelin star spots across Spain and England.


Before joining Blue Apron, he had spent the prior eight years as a chef of the beloved Franny's in Brooklyn. And if you don't know Frannie's, what an incredible restaurant. It really just changed the game for not only what an Italian restaurant could be, but just what a restaurant in general could be.


And at the time, there really was nothing like it. I remember seeing John in the past all the time. I lived on the block and I actually owned a restaurant on the block and a few times they were sure to cook on my day off just for fun. I would come in and help out on the line. So I had the pleasure of working with John.


He's an incredible cook and just a real technician and really I think this is just another example of how large scale institutions like Blue Apron can effectuate meaningful change when they take culinary seriously and hire folks like John. John and I talk a lot about what it's like to leave the restaurant world to join one of these corporations, how the restaurant experience sets you up for success in any endeavor.


And of course, we dig into the whole world of Blue Apron, what it's like working there, running the R&D kitchen and just, you know how he's creating really incredible food for homes across America. So as always, I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.


Welcome to The meez Podcast

John Adler [00:02:04]: 

Thank you. 

Josh Sharkey [00:02:05]: 

Is it a damn pleasure to have you here? I'm grateful to have you on. If you're in the food world, if you're a chef, specifically if you're a chef, sort of maybe in the fine dining world, you probably already know who John Aler is. But for those that don't, John, maybe just a little background on yourself real quick thirty second like where you come from, where you worked, and what you're doing today. 

John Adler [00:02:19]: 

Sure. Yeah. My name is John Adler. I am the Senior Vice President of Physical Product at Blue Apron, which is one of America's original meal kit companies. And before joining Blue Apron, I worked in restaurants both in New York and in Europe.


So I was the executive chef at Franny's. Well, I joined Frannie's as a sous chef and then became co chef to cuisine, and then executive chef.  I worked for Thomas Keller and Jonathan Benno at Per Se. I worked for Dan Barber and Michael Anthony in the early days of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and peppered in there I also worked at a local restaurant in Pleasantville, New York, where I'm from. That taught me a lot and there's still a lot that I pulled out of my days there and then peppered in throughout that, some time in Europe, so I was lucky enough to spend the summer cooking in Italy. I cooked at a restaurant in Spain, and also at the St. John in London and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons with Raymond Blanc right outside of Oxford. 

Josh Sharkey [00:03:26]: 

Quite the pedigree, I would say. 

John Adler [00:03:29]: 

I would say I got really lucky. The big thing that's missing from my resume is culinary school. I never went. And so there are some people that call that a strength. There are some people that kind of cock their heads inside about it. For me, I grew up loving cooking. My mom was an amazing cook. I was a crazy picky eater though, like I didn't eat a lot of food, but I like unique foods because I'm half Israeli and so I loved Middle Eastern food. I used to say falafel is my favorite food, and it still kind of is, probably pops up between that and pizza.


I grew up eating unique foods and then as I got older I was jealous of my sister. She got to travel more with my mom, and my mom basically said, well, you got to be able to try more things. And so I think around like sixth grade, I really just kind of dropped the whole, I don't like that approach, and I would just try anything. There's only a couple of foods now that I stay away from. Wait, there are foods you stay away from. 

Josh Sharkey [00:04:24]: 

What, what? Which ones are these? 

John Adler [00:04:25]: 

Yeah. I really don't like bananas. I know. I know. It's just, here's the thing. I like bananas cooked into things, and I think it's a textural thing, and I like melons a lot, but honeydew has always been one that I'm just not that big a fan of.

Josh Sharkey [00:04:41]: 

No, I mean, honeydews probably, you know, of all the melons you're going to stay away from.

John Adler [00:04:47]: 

If you put it like a perfectly ripe, super pungent charentais melon in front of me in the middle of the summer, like I'm going to embarrass myself eating that thing. Yeah, those are probably the only two foods, I mean, awful.


All the rest of it, like no issues here. But yeah, it was definitely one of those unique journeys to cooking. I got through college and was planning on going to Washington, DC and working in nonprofits and maybe getting into consulting or politics. And the job that I was lined up for didn't start for a few months.


So I got a job at a local restaurant, the chef who had been through the kitchens of Larry Forgione and then the original Grammar Street Tavern crew. He was sort of like a textbook new American chef, and I got a job with him six weeks into it. The sous chef walked in and he said, Hey kid, if you finish your prep early, I'll teach you how to break down a strip loin.

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