Alan Dye, Apple

Posted inDesign Resources

By: Admin | July 20, 2009

Scroll above to seemore images

APPLE CREATIVE DIRECTOR Alan Dye thinks his design and cooking practice have plenty in common: “Design to me has always been about a plan for action. And in this way, cooking is very similar. You always start out with a problem to solve, but how you push the execution and make it your own is completely up to you.”


Where did you buy your ingredients for this dish? I bought all of the ingredients at our favorite local grocery, Bi-Rite Market on 18th street, just off of Dolores Park [in San Francisco]. It’s such a gem of a place: amazing local produce, cheese, and wine, as well as a perfectly edited selection of other necessities. Since it’s only a few blocks from our home, we’ve made it our go-to store. What we love most about Bi-Rite is the focus on locally grown produce, meats, and other products. The store is an amazing collection of the best local food the Bay Area has to offer. But what really takes the place to the next level is the amazing staff. They are an amazingly helpful and knowledgeable group. Always willing to help guide you to some new cheese producer, or a new, interesting wine maker that you might not have heard of. It truly is a special place. Were the ingredients you used cheap?

The ingredients that I used were inexpensive, except for the Humboldt Fog goat cheese. It tends to run around twenty-four dollars a pound. Not exactly cheap, but well worth it. It takes common mac and cheese to a whole new place.

Did you have any mishaps while making this dish, or did it go smoothly?

Making the dish went pretty smoothly. The only debate I had was whether or not I should finish it with panko breadcrumbs under the broiler. In the end, for the photo shoot, I decided not to. Later that evening, after the photo shoot, my wife and I tucked into the mac and cheese, along with some champagne. We ended up adding the breadcrumbs, and finishing it in the broiler for 5 minutes. We really liked the added crispness that this provided. And, of course, I highly recommend the champagne. It completes the dish. Speaking of champagne, we drank a sparkling wine from California’s Schramsburg vineyards. Delightful.

Do you often cook?

Truthfully, I wish that I cooked more often. Sadly, my schedule doesn’t allow for it every night, but most weekends, I’m in the kitchen. The process of making a meal helps me relax, and takes my mind off whatever it is that I’m obsessing over that day. It’s a wonderful release. Mostly though, I like the process, the journey of making. And the best part is that in the end, you’ve accomplished something that you can share with friends and family.

Do you draw any connection between the food you like to make and the kind of design you do? Is your approach to one similar at all to your approach to the other?

Whether in design or in the kitchen, I’ve always appreciated high and low. I hate pretentious, but I like when the classics are done well or in new and interesting ways. With food and design, I’ve tried to stay away from trends, and it has usually served me well. So that’s why I chose mac and cheese with champagne.

How important is presentation to you?

Presentation is important to me, but again, it can’t be pretentious. I tend to stick with a mix of simple classics and more refined accents. Of course, I love all of the pieces that Kate Spade designed for her home collection a few years back. I’m especially into her Larabee Dot champagne glasses. Most designers tend to avoid anything decorative. I think there’s a huge place for the decorative when it comes to setting a table, or decorating a home. Sterile and cold is not comfortable and inviting.

Do you listen to music while you cook? If so, what’s your preferred cooking soundtrack?

I listen to all sorts of things while cooking. It depends on my mood, mostly. I’ve got some amazing mixes from my good friend Julia that never fail to make me smile. They consist of an amazing collection of some classics, some new stuff, and always something unexpected. If it’s a weekend, I’m usually all about NPR. Something about listening to Weekend Edition takes me back to my childhood in Buffalo. Plus, I’m a bit of a news junkie.

When and how did you first learn to cook? Who taught you?

I started cooking pretty early on. My mom and I loved to cook together, she would chop, I would cook. It was a good system. Some of my best memories are of cooking with my mom. Later, she went back to school, so I would do some cooking for my dad and I. I think this was when I started to get a bit more creative and try new things.

Do you think your relationship with food has changed much over the years?

My relationship with food has certainly evolved over the years. Spending a number of years in New York, I was able to really expand my palate. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve moved away from the classics. I still get excited about pizza and a nice bottle of wine on a Friday night.

Is there a new way that you’ve noticed design and food connecting? How is design shaping our collective relationship with food, in your opinion? Design and food are connected in so many ways. Mostly for me, it’s about process. Design to me has always been about a plan for action. And in this way, cooking is very similar. You always start out with a problem to solve, but how you push the execution and make it your own is completely up to you. That, and hopefully in the end you’ve made something beautiful that you can experience with others.



  1. Course Sea Salt

  2. 1 pound DeCecco Macaroni

  3. 2 tbsp butter

  4. 1/4 cup diced onion

  5. 1 bay leaf

  6. 1 tbsp all purpose flour

  7. 1/4 cup heavy cream

  8. 1 tsp dijon mustard

  9. 2 cups / 1 pound Humboldt Fog goat cheese (the more, the better)

  10. 3/4 cup chopped roasted peppers (red and yellow. Bottled is fine.)

  11. 2 tsp course ground pepper

  12. 2 tsp green tabasco (or more as needed)

  13. panko bread crumbs

  14. 1 bottle of California sparkling wine or Champagne (or more as needed)


Time: 40 minutes

  1. Open a bottle of champagne, or a California sparkling wine. Shramsberg from Napa is recommended, as it works well with the Humboldt Fog cheese. Pour yourself and anyone in the near vicinity a glass. Repeat as needed.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 2 tsp salt. Add macaroni, and stir well. Cook until al dente, drain well and set aside

  3. In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter (do not burn), add onions and bay leaf. Saute until onions are soft, about 5 minutes, then discard bay leaf.

  4. Add flour, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk, then cream. Simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. Add mustard, Humboldt Fog, roasted peppers, black pepper, tabasco and salt to taste.

  6. Stir pasta into cheese sauce, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

  7. Cover, remove from heat and keep warm. Serve in wide shallow bowls, or sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and crisp under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.

  8. Serve with champagne. Enjoy.