BENTON HARBOR — Whirlpool Corp. is no stranger to bringing guest chefs to its Southwest Michigan campuses.

But with June being National Pride Month, the Benton Harbor-based appliance maker convinced The Hearty Boys for a couple days this week.

Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh – who are known for their moniker as The Hearty Boys – are trend-setting Chicago caterers and original winners of “Food Network Star.”

It was their first time cooking at Whirlpool’s campuses in Benton Harbor, which included a stop at Lakeview Campus on Wednesday and Riverview Campus on Thursday.

“Whirlpool asked us to come in to take care of the employees and give them something interesting to do during lunch,” McDonagh said. “They’ve got such a great setup here. It’s easy to bring in guest chefs.”

Both chefs were able to use the full-size kitchen to prepare and a display counter for demonstrations. Smith and McDonagh are originally from the East Coast and were actors prior to their venture into food.

“When you’re in New York and you’re an actor – you are also a waiter. It was easy to fall into this,” McDonagh said. “We’ve both been doing ancillary food things since we were in our early 20s. It really took off in Chicago after Food Network.”

In 2005, they earned accreditation in the food industry when they won the first season of the popular Food Network series. This led to their own Food Network series called “Party Line with the Hearty Boys.”

They’ve published two books, with their most recent cookbook being an everyman’s guide to the current cocktail movement.” The book looks at pre-Prohibition cocktails and how they’re made.

Smith created Chicago’s Silver Fork program, which trains and places at-risk youth in the culinary field and, along with his partners at Playground Hospitality, consults for many large national chains.

Smith and McDonagh have previously owned several restaurants in Chicago, but are now focusing on catering for a chance to spend more time in their Buchanan lake house with their 13-year-old son.

“We’re doing a little less, which is great,” Smith said. “We were looking for some more family time. But the catering business still keeps us very busy.”

Because of their house in Buchanan, Smith and McDonagh said they were able to make the appearance at the Whirlpool campuses this week.

They’ve also done pride events with Whirlpool’s employee resource network for several years, which included appearances at the annual pride party that used to be held in Chicago at the World of Whirlpool.

Smith handled the food aspect of Thursday’s demo, while McDonagh explained the drinks and front-of-house operation.

McDonagh concocted an alcohol-free version of a hibiscus margarita, while Smith created three entrees. Those dishes included a charred carrot bisque with a pumpkin-seed pesto, Chinese chicken meatballs in lettuce cups, and a charred corn salad.

Greg Fulmer, community lead for the Pride Network at Whirlpool, said they try to hold several events like these during National Pride Month.

Later this month, the Pride Network will host Zeke Smith from the television series “Survivor,” who was outed as being transgender on the show.

“We just want to celebrate and engage our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally employees,” Fulmer said. “We do that through events like this. It’s a good way to engage people.”

Contact:, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski