Tom Ryan, the founder and Chief Concept Officer of Smashburger, stopped by WNYC's The Sporkful podcast to talk about his work over the years. Ryan has degrees in food science, lipid toxicology, and flavor and fragrance chemistry and his studies have led him to create some of fast food's most iconic eats, including the stuffed crust pizza and McDonald's McGriddle, which helped land him on Gourmet's list of top 25 food entrepreneurs of the last quarter century.
On the podcast, Ryan opens up to host Dan Pashman about inventing the stuffed crust pizza. His first prototype wasn't exactly beautiful and "looked like a Schwinn bike tire." He knew, however, through years of research that that "people always like more cheese on their pizza, and most people don't eat the crust." Turned out he was right: According to the Sun Sentinal, the stuffed crust pizza boosted Pizza Hut's sales between 7-10% its first year.
Since most of Ryan's creations aren't exactly health food and obesity is on the rise, does he have any regrets about inventing them? That would be a firm "no." Ryan tells Pashman, "A lot of these items were driven by demand in the marketplace... I think consumers are sophisticated, I think they're informed, I think everything should be done in moderation." He adds, "It would be like regretting my role as a winemaker because of alcoholism. I didn't design it for people to abuse, I designed it because people really enjoy it." Go, listen: