Jesse Tyler Ferguson Cooks
Touching down in Los Angeles, making my way into a rental car, rolling down the windows and letting the fresh Cali air that reeks of vacation tousle my hair and—bing—there it was an email entitled "INTERVIEW OPP: Jesse Tyler Ferguson". Modern Family's Mitchel Pritchett. Holy what? Life halted. Well, mine did. What would I ask? How would I come across? Oh dear God, could I do this? Then the words that I've said and lived by a thousand times over echoed in my head, "if it scares you, you have to do it". And, like ripping a bandaid from my skin, I replied all and was all in.
My mind, focus and attention immediately went down the rabbit hold of the internet where I discovered so much about Jesse Tyler Ferguson, things I hadn't known before. Did you know he cooks? Like a lot. Like has a food blog kind of cooks a lot. Can you believe it? I have something in common with this amazingly talented human! I couldn't be more excited to chat with him.
Fast forward a week and I'm back in New York insanely jet-lagged and I get a text message asking if I could talk with Jesse—ahem, Jesse Tyler Ferguson—earlier than planned. I don't know why this shocked me, perhaps it was the jet-lag, but his voice sounded exactly the same as it does on TV. It's a weird thing to say, cause, duh, but there it was, somehow hearing it was so familiar. Then there was my jet-lag chic voice—oh boy. Somehow, it didn't matter. He was gracious, kind, and super fun to chat with. Read on for my Q&A with him followed by his recipe for Muhammara.
Photography was taken by Michael Simon.
MW. As a New Yorker, surrounded by those who create, those who inspire and those who do it so publicly that people stop them on the street when I sat down to plan questions for this interview, I got to thinking about what makes a “true fan”. I’m sure there are many factors. In this case, knowing a bit about your passions off of the stage and screen that occur in your own time colors me as either a stalker, a well-researched human or a true fan. You pick because that isn’t the point. The point is that I’m so excited about what I’ve discovered in this process. You, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, have a food site! There is having a love for dining out or cooking, and then there is taking that love to a whole new level. What took you from the place where you were cooking for family and friends to the place where you decided to formalize it by writing it all out for anyone and everyone to see?
JTF. I love eating out. I love exploring new cuisines and I also love cooking at home. I think if I hadn’t become an actor, I would have pursued a career in the culinary world. So that I don’t have the time to put myself through culinary school, I have a fantastic time cooking with my friend Julie who is actually a trained chef and a caterer so she and I would get together and create meals together and post them on Instagram and people started asking us for the recipes for these meals that we were making so we thought about housing them on a blog which we did and is called JulieAndJesseCook.com and that’s where our recipes are archived. It’s been a fun hobby that’s turned into a lifestyle blog. I’m constantly using it as a reference point for party planning and for when I have big gatherings which is something I love to do. I love entertaining. I love eating as a family and bringing friends together for a meal.
MW. Are there any home entertaining tips I must know about?
JTF. I like to switch things up. I don’t like to make the same thing too many times. I certainly have greatest hits that I go back to over and over but I also love the opportunity to try new recipes and expand my array of recipes. It’s always a great thing to have a dinner party because you can sort of get feedback from a group of people who you trust.
MW. Predominantly a recipe website, where did your knowledge and experience with cooking come from?
JTF. I’m an avid cookbook collector so I’m always buying cookbooks. I have a huge library of cookbooks in my kitchen so I use those as inspiration a lot. That is sort of a good way to explore your culinary ability in a safe way because someone tells you exactly what to do. And, once you sort of have your bearings, so to speak, and are comfortable in your kitchen, you can take those tools you’ve learned in those cookbooks and explore your own meals.
MW. Is there one nostalgic family recipe, dish or meal that if telling the Jesse Tyler Ferguson story would need to be in the story of your childhood? For example, most of my childhood stories would start with “I was grabbing a dollar slice and a can of diet coke when…”
JTF. I would cook holiday cookies with my mom all of the time. That was a tradition we had. That’s something that brought me into the kitchen. It’s a moment that unified the family. It’s something I look back upon and have fond memories of. Cooking with my mom during the holidays would be a snapshot of my youth.
MW. For my readers who don’t cook or even just feel like getting out for a bit, what is your favorite restaurant in NYC?
JTF. It changes on a day to day basis. There are so many great places to eat here in New York. I really like Lillia in Brooklyn. Missy Robbins is the chef there and she’s an amazing pasta chef and was nominated for a James Beard award this past year. So, that’s one of my new favorites. Carbone, also Italian food in the Village. It’s delicious. What I love about New York is you turn around and there’s always a new restaurant opening up. It’s a constantly evolving thing.
MW. In my stalker-like hunt down the rabbit hole of the internet, I discovered that you are the ambassador for PEPCID. Taking PEPCID is one thing, being given the title of “ambassador” is another one entirely. To me, this signifies that your heartburn is quite regular and that you needed to find that perfect cure-all to enable you to eat all of the foods you want while also being able to try new-to-you bites without hesitation or hindrance in this food-focused lifestyle you have.
JTF. I look for restaurants with bold flavors. Obviously, I follow certain chefs around. I like to be super adventurous with my eating which is why I have teamed up with PEPCID because the have this great program right now—“carpe dinner”—about seizing the meal and being able to eat what you want to eat without the fear of heartburn which is something I certainly suffer from. I love the ability to go to any restaurant I want. I love Italian food, I love super spicy food, I love Indian food, I love Thai food but sometimes in the past, I would shy away from going to those places because of how it would affect my body. So, I really love this mantra of “seize the meal” and being able to truly enjoy a meal and have those great meals with my husband or my family without worrying about heartburn.
Well, it’s certainly something that’s going to happen. I take it at the onset of heartburn. If I’m eating spicy food, I make sure that I’m prepared. It does allow me to eat foods that I would like to eat. And certain foods obviously trigger me in a different way but like I said I am so super drawn to spicy food that if it’s an option on the menu I’m going to want to have it and that is certainly a trigger food for me. It allows me to have the foods I want without the serious discomfort that would come.
MW. Is there anything you have cut from your diet?
JTF. No, no, not for me personally. I speak for myself.
MW. When did you first start getting heartburn?
JTF. For me, it certainly came with age, as well. When I was younger I would be able to eat anything and my body would process it in a different way. After I hit my thirties, this food affected me in a different way. I remember the first time having heartburn and feeling like I was having a heart attack and actually when to the doctor and was told that I had just needed to take medicine. There wasn’t anything wrong with me like I thought there was. It was certainly a scary thing when it first came about and right now my husband who is ten years younger than me is sort of going through the same process where he is like, “Oh, is this what heartburn feels like?” and I’m like, “yup. Welcome to the club”. So, yeah, it’s definitely something that comes with age.
MW. Where were you when this happened?
JTF. I was a home, fortunately. But the other night, I was in New York seeing some theater and I had a hamburger with my husband before the show. We had the early bird special at 5:30 and we went to the theater and after the second act I started feeling the effects of the hamburger and I was having heartburn and I was trying to quietly burp in the theater. Justin was like “what’s going on” and I was like “I have the heartburn”. I wasn’t prepared so I had to sort of wait till I got home because I wasn’t expecting it to come on that fast. I’m realizing I need to always carry it along with me.
MW. If you could live a food scene featured in any movie, which would you choose? And, why?
JTF. I guess that would be the one in When Harry Met Sally. Just so I could make a scene with my husband in a restaurant. It’s fun. Or Lady And The Tramp.
Muhammara Roasted Red Pepper Dip
TO MAKE YOUR MUHAMMARA. in the bowl of a food processor, pulsate the pita bread until finely ground.
Add in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with pomegranate seeds, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and minced parsley.
Serve with pita chips, veggies or spread on your favorite sandwich.
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to one week.