meez podcast

Season One Finale: Dave Santos of Foxface Natural

Rectangle with white background and a photo of Dave Santos

Listen to this episode

About this episode

As we close out season one, The meez Podcast welcomes Chef David Santos. Growing up as a first generation Portuguese American, Dave was immersed in every aspect of food since a young age. He started his culinary career as a 2001 graduate of Johnson & Wales University. He then traveled throughout Europe and South America, soaking up the culinary heritage of the visited countries and their cuisines rooted in peak quality seasonal ingredients.

Santos later worked at acclaimed restaurants like Per Se and Bouley (where he met meez CEO, Josh Sharkey) as well as Nicholas and The Ryland Inn. By launching Um Segredo, a series of supper clubs hosted at his Roosevelt Island home, Santos established his own culinary voice and quickly developed a cult following. In 2012, he opened Louro in the West Village to much acclaim.

In this episode, Josh Sharkey and Dave touch on the beauty and culture of Portuguese food, the excitement of opening and running his supper club series, Um Segredo, and his new and thriving restaurant, Foxface, which recently earned 3 stars in The New York Times.

Josh and Dave end the episode by discussing the controversy of food critics, Dave's YouTube channel, and what's next in the pipeline for Dave and Foxface.

Where to find Dave Santos:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(03:26) Dave's family and food background

(12:14) Portuguese cuisine's influence on other cultures

(18:51) Tinned Fish

(21:25) Pastéis de Nata and recreating it in the States

(30:41) Foxface and its origin

(39:28) Um Segredo and who should and shouldn't host professional Supper Clubs

(46:33) Lessons learned from cooking that influence Dave today

(22:03) How bad experiences can teach you the greatest lessons

(1:05:16) Food critics and their place in the culinary industry


[00:00:00] Josh Sharkey:

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.


Today is the last official guest interview of season one of the meez podcast. We'll be doing some recaps and other fun content in between seasons and we'll kick off season two just after the new year in 2024. So my guest for today's show is an old friend. and a super talented chef named Dave Santos.


We met over two decades ago, well almost two decades ago, cooking at Bouley's restaurant and became fast friends. Dave is of Portuguese descent. He was American born but his family is all from Portugal and actually the first time I ever had Dave's food was actually this seafood soup that he made for staff meal that we still talk about to this day because it was just friggin delicious.


And I'd never had anything like it. And then I couldn't stop asking questions about Portugal and Portuguese food. We talk a lot about that today, so we'll dig into that. Dave and his team were just awarded three stars from the New York Times for Foxface, a restaurant born out of a former sandwich shop that is crushing it in New York City with this sort of contrarian approach to proteins that you might expect.


Serving things like kangaroo and camel, to name a few. Dave also had one of the most successful underground supper clubs. called Um Segredo that he ran out of his old apartment in Roosevelt Island, and guess what, take like the tram or ferry over to dine with him. We talk a little bit about what it is like to run a supper club and why most folks shouldn’t, and we definitely talk about Foxface, but we spent a lot of time talking about Portugal, the history of the country and the impact that it had on the culinary world.


In so many ways, I learned a ton, but we talk about food critics. And the value that they bring and sometimes the things that make it difficult to run a restaurant because of them and maybe the responsibility that we think they could and should have in journalism. Anyways, I had an awesome time. It was longer than we had expected it to be because we just couldn't stop talking and I learned a lot. And as always, I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did.

[00:02:28] Dave Santos:

Hi. how are you doing?

[00:02:34] Josh Sharkey:

Mr. Dave Santos. What's going on? So nice to see you.

[00:02:36] Dave Santos:

You as well. It's been too long.

[00:02:38] Josh Sharkey:

It has. Well, welcome to the show. Thank you. I am just delighted to have you here. I was thinking about this today on the ride over here that we worked together 19 years ago.

[00:02:50] Dave Santos:

Has it been 19 years?

[00:02:51] Josh Sharkey:

19 years ago. I just said 15. Yeah. At Bouley. And that's dating ourselves because, you know, I was in my twenties. I think you were in your twenties. Actually, we... Graduated from Johnson and Wales.

[00:03:04] Dave Santos:

Johnson and Wales, so we actually have a prehistory.

[00:03:07] Josh Sharkey:

That's right. Although I don't remember if we like, knew each other.

[00:03:10] Dave Santos:

I would see you at the gym because you were on the wrestling team. Yes. And I was on the baseball team. That's right. So we used to see, we used to cross paths.

[00:03:17] Josh Sharkey:

That’s right. And then I separated my shoulder at a tournament, I think at Cornell or something. And that was the end of wrestling for me. Anyways, um, glad to have you here, man.


I would love it if you could kind of wind this up a little bit with how you got here and your background, but I wanted to sort of preface it by today, I wanted to talk about Portuguese food a little bit with you, as well as, of course, your uber successful new restaurant, Foxface, and Um Segredo. Yeah, absolutely.


I'd like to get some learnings from that. And then maybe we can talk a little bit about your thoughts on food critics and the value of the world. I've been on those thoughts. So anyways, to wind everybody up, Chef Dave Santos. A little bit of your background.

[00:03:57] Dave Santos:

I'm a first generation Portuguese American. Both my parents immigrated here. My dad in 75, I think it was. And my mom in 76, or 74 and 75, one of those. And I grew up in Jersey.

[00:04:13] Josh Sharkey:

So English is their second language.

[00:04:14] Dave Santos:

English is their second language. English is their, it's, technically it's my second language. Technically, the first language I learned growing up was Portuguese, and then I learned English.


I actually almost got held back in school because I couldn't grasp English. So I grew up in Jersey, Portuguese community in Perth Amboy, small, uh, couple dots around the world of Portuguese communities, San Diego, Toronto. Newark, New Jersey, all have small Portuguese communities that most people went to when they came over.

[00:04:47] Josh Sharkey:

So just a quick question, like, do Portuguese communities sort of gravitate to the Brazilian communities too? My sister lives in Framingham where there's just tons of Brazilian.

[00:04:59] Dave Santos:

So the Portuguese immigration kind of predates the Brazilian coming over. And it also like the Azoreans all kind of came for whatever reason to like the Cape, you know, Boston, that area, mainland Portuguese people.

Read More
Read Less