From lawyer to social media celebrity, Danny Freeman of Sunset Beach found a new career on TikTok.

Pasta maker extraordinaire Danny Freeman uses beets to turn his fresh pasta red, spinach if he wants this Italian favorite green, and red pepper for orange. Squid ink turns the dough black.

“TikTok pushes you to be creative, and people ask you to do more,” Freeman says from his family’s home in Sunset Beach. “They asked if I could add colors. That’s how I really started learning.”

Freeman progressed to forming creative pasta dough designs, such as mermaids and starfish, sunflowers and succulents, hearts and bows, all edible. With 1.2 million followers on TikTok and more than 200,000 on Instagram, Freeman attracted the attention of Stephanie Winter, a literary agent with PS Literary.

His 240-page cookbook Danny Loves Pasta will be released June 27 but is now available for pre-order.

“I thought it would be cool to do a book,” he says. “I had to sit down and write all the recipes.”

Steve Wengrovitz Danny Freeman

Freeman’s celebrity goes beyond social media. He appeared on the Rachael Ray show in 2022, and this year created a collaborative Valentine’s Day gift box with chef Giada De Laurentiis. She sent him ingredients imported from Italy, including pesto, olive oil and noodles.

“I wrote a recipe that used all these ingredients,” Freeman says. “The gift box sold out.”

Watching Freeman, 36, make pasta is like admiring a skier maneuver the moguls or a golfer sink a perfect putt. He concentrates on drizzling a small amount of water on 400 grams (about 2¾ cups) of 00 flour, which he says makes the dough smoother because it’s more finely ground. He adds four eggs and puts all his energy into kneading the dough to the exact texture he desires, which takes about 10 minutes. When he accomplishes that feat, he feeds the dough six or seven times into a pasta maker to get the thinness required for the shapes he plans to create.

Cookie cutters play a major part in making the shapes he wants. After cooking, delicious is the best word to describe the pasta. The taste is sweet and firmer compared to boxed pasta.

“There’s more flavor from the eggs and more flavor from the fresh flour,” Freeman says with his characteristic smile that encompasses his entire face. “Regular pasta doesn’t have eggs. It’s just flour and water.”

A pasta lover from childhood, this Albany, New York, native didn’t go to culinary school or major in videography. Economics and religious studies were his courses of choice at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. New York’s Columbia University Law School followed. After 10 years practicing law, COVID and his daughter Elise “Ezzie” changed Freeman’s career path.

Danny Freeman Pasta Man

It happened that Freeman and his husband since 2014, Steve Wengrovitz, wanted to protect their newborn daughter from COVID, so instead of returning to New York City from Kansas, where Ezzie was born in July 2020, they chose Sunset Beach as a safe place to stay. Freeman took a leave of absence, and Wengrovitz, a user-experience researcher at Google, worked remotely. By Christmas COVID was still raging, and the men decided to spend the holidays at the beach.

Never away from family at Christmas, nostalgia set in, and Freeman cooked all the family favorites, including pasta, his favorite food.

“I made my grandmother’s recipe for fresh pasta,” he says. “I did Facetime with her, so she could see it.” Then on January 16, 2021, his grandmother died, and to lessen the pain of losing a close relative, “I started making more pasta to do something,” he says. “Once I started getting creative making it, I got obsessed.”

He posted on Instagram but decided to expand his scope to TikTok. “I didn’t tell anyone because I had never been on TikTok and never did video,” he says. “I started posting, and it snowballed.”

Freeman returned to law for a few months in 2021, but childcare was difficult to find, so he took another leave of absence. “I really enjoyed spending time with Ezzie,” he says. “These early years are so precious, and [pasta making] is so much more fun.”

Ezzie, along with Bartley, the family pet for 12 years, welcomes visitors with enthusiasm. When asked if she likes pasta, Ezzie answers with a booming “Yes” and adds contagious laughter then dances around like a ballerina. Asked what her favorite food is she responds with a vibrant “Pasta! I like pasta!”

Freeman fits between his two brothers age wise. He says his brothers support his career choice as do his parents, both social workers. Freeman says he grew up hearing their heart-rending stories of victims and planned to have a job where he could help people. After four years of practicing law at a corporate firm where he made enough money to pay off his college debt, he took a position with Manhattan Legal Services where he went to court to stop people from being evicted. He’s not sure he’ll return to law because he sees so many possibilities with his current career and may branch out even more.

Danny Freeman Makes Pasta

“I enjoy writing fiction, but I’ve never tried to have any published,” he says. “It’s a secret hobby. Now having written a cookbook, it has me thinking more about writing novels.”

Wengrovitz also supports Freeman’s career change and explains he runs in marathons so he appreciates having pasta available. “None of the pasta I used to eat was ever this good,” he says. “I like seeing [Dan] try new things. Every week there’s something different.”

“He makes all kinds of shapes and colored pasta,” says Sunset Beach neighbor Chris Wilson. “It is nothing like in a box.”

Freeman envisions the rest of the year promoting his book and developing more creative ways to make pasta. If TikTok is banned in the United States, he says, “My hope is that I can grow my audience on other platforms.” Besides, he has unlimited ideas bubbling in the back of his mind.

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