As part of Comedy Week on Food Republic, we recently caught up with film, television and stage funnyman Josh Gad. Fresh off his role as Elder Arnold Cunningham in the wildly successful Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, Gad is primed to reveal the sometimes funny intricacies of eating in the White House in the upcoming NBC comedy, 1600 Penn.
The 31-year-old Gad had to endure some not-so-funny dietary restrictions during his time on the show; he tells us all about it, plus his favorite food cities, his hatred of liver and his love for Thomas Keller and Rao’s. So much love.
Would you consider yourself a foodie? Is food a big part of your life?
I would let my stomach answer that question [laughs]. If you’ve seen my work, yes! The answer is a resounding, YES! I don’t think of myself as a “food snob,” but I think of myself as somebody who loves great food. I can literally pass an afternoon watching Bourdain on No Reservations, or Andrew Zimmern. That’s my idea of great entertainment – to see what the best foods around the world are. I love great chefs, great restaurants, great food atmosphere.
I’m pretty sure we all could! I understand you just finished doing The Book of Mormon?
Yes I did. It was a pretty incredible experience.
Was your diet different before and after doing the musical? Did you have any dietary restrictions?
Absolutely. Throughout that year-and-a-half, I tried not to eat any dairy, because it can cause a lot of phlegm. So when you’re doing a show eight times a week, it’s not great if you have to sing. I would really cut out dairy, and a lot of citrus-y and acidic foods. I was a big sushi eater, and very Plain-Jane. Now, that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t cheat [laughs] – on days off, I would go and enjoy things that have dairy in them.
Did you have a ritual on days you were performing?
I actually wound up eating every day before the show, eating the same exact thing. I lived on the Upper West Side by Lincoln Center. I would go to this incredibly fresh market deli called Gracefully and get the same thing everyday – a piece of chicken with a side of veggies. And I would eat that before the show. And every single day at intermission, I would have an orange to get me through the end. Usually at the end of the show, I would go to this amazing place on 46th where a lot of theatre people go called Bar Centrale and just wind down after the show there and eat some amazing fish tacos.
You’ve traveled a lot throughout the United States. Do you have a favorite food city?
Oh, yeah. I think I’m very fortunate because Los Angeles and New York are both incredible food cities. Outside the coasts, I would say New Orleans is just ridiculous. In particular, K-Paul is one of the finest restaurants I have ever eaten at. I also feel that Napa Valley is a premier destination for food. People always joke about it, but French Laundry and Thomas Keller really changed my life [laughs]. It’s one of those meals that you just – somebody there said that they bit into their salad and they just started crying. I do feel like the food event that is French Laundry is one of those events that represents that “Ratatouille moment” when the critic just bites into the ratatouille and suddenly flashes back to his childhood. It’s why we love to make food an event.
When were you able to eat at The French Laundry?
I took my wife about two years ago. We went out there to celebrate our anniversary, and it’s one of those things where you cannot get a reservation unless you book a year in advance. I called up my agent and told her, “I need you to do this, I don’t care who you have to kill or sleep with – please do this “ [laughs] and somehow she pulled it off and it was incredible. They gave me a tour of the kitchen afterwards, and it was just an amazing experience. I felt sick to my stomach because I ate so much, but it was such a good hurt.
I know you’re Jewish. Are you able to eat much Jewish food and is that a big part of your life?
It was when I was younger, not really now as much. I love traditional foods from the culture and I love things like brisket. Nobody loves a good piece of challah as much as I do, or matzah brei, but I kind of savor those moments traditionally on the holidays, like Passover.
And how about a food that you can’t look at, or would never try?
I will never try tarantula. I will never go to one of those “fine parties,” where it’s all like “Hey, let’s sit around and try insects.” Like tarantulas off lollipops, have you ever seen those? Also, I really hate liver. I’ve tried it enough to know that I hate it, so I won’t do that.
No tarantula lollipops or liver, got it. How about food chains? Do you eat at food chains much?
I try not to eat at fast food chains much. The last food chain I ate at was Chart House – the one in Malibu – the fish is so fresh and it’s an incredible atmosphere. They have this ridiculous hot brownie sundae that is just a heart attack on a plate, but it’s so spectacularly good.
Well, it better be for that many calories. So, let’s say that Food Republic was going to take you out to dinner in New York – and we’re paying – where would you want to go?
I would have to see if we could get reservations at Per Se. If it’s on you, then that’s the place. I was supposed to go once but I never went – the reason being that I was invited at the very last minute to this incredible restaurant that’s very off-the-radar called Rao’s in Spanish Harlem. You can only go there by invitation, and it was the craziest food experience I’ve ever had in my whole life.
I’ve got to ask one final question before I let you go – have you ever had food thrown at you on stage while you were performing?
[laughs] No, I’ve never had food thrown at me, but there was this one day where this girl in the front row during a performance of Book of Mormon was literally having a little solo pizza party – eating two slices of pizza and drinking a Coke. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen, and I just went up on my lines because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was like I was in an episode of Punk’d.
And that’s something that I’m sure you noticed throughout the show and affected you?
Yeah, it was literally a foot away from me in the front row. I could actually smell the pizza, and I was so damn hungry because all I had eaten was an orange and I couldn’t have cheese at the time.