Welcome to the first-ever installment of the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire, a new way for Eater’s readers to get to know the dining habits of Hollywood’s most interesting people. First up in this exciting new series: Nicole Byer
Although her job involves commenting on the epic dessert fails of Netflix’s hit show Nailed It, comedian Nicole Byer is not, in fact, a pastry virtuoso. “I don’t bake,” she says. “I don’t cook, really. My specialty is this thing I call slop, which is just ground turkey — it’s like the top part of spaghetti without the noodles.” But Nicole’s enthusiasm for watching other people bake, and her playful jokes about their pastry flops, are two of the main reasons why Nailed It is such a big hit. Byer cuts through the snobbishness and self-importance that’s rampant across the food TV landscape, and helps breathe new life into a genre — the culinary competition show — that had grown tired in recent years.
For all these reasons, we thought Nicole Byer would be the perfect person to tackle the inaugural edition of the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire, an interview series where the most exciting people in Hollywood answer a recurring set of questions about food and drinks.
Welcome to the Eater Questionnaire. What do you want to eat right this second?
[Laughing] I was going to say a big dick, but I should say food. Um, bacon. I always want to eat bacon.
What’s your favorite but admittedly strange food combination?
I like sweet-and-salty things. I don’t eat this very much anymore, but when I was little I would like to eat ham and pound cake, which is so fucking weird. Ham, pound cake, and ice cream.
That almost sounds like something you could get at a trendy restaurant in Brooklyn right now.
Thank you for validating my food choice.
What’s the one food item you didn’t try until later on in life?
Cold cheese. That’s an insane answer. I don’t like the texture of cold cheese, except for parmesan cheese. When I was little, I used to be like, “You can’t give me raw cheese.” That’s what I called cold cheese. It had to be melted.
What have you never eaten that you wish you could try?
People seem to love calamari, but I can’t do it. It’s like tentacles, right? I’m not eating someone’s tentacles, that seems rude.
What have you already eaten that you wish you could un-eat?
Yeah, I had beef tongue at a restaurant. It was fucking nasty. She said it wasn’t going to be like a weird texture, but it definitely was. It was disgusting.
Was it slimy, like you might expect a tongue to be?
Yes, it was just like a tongue, and I specifically was like, “Does it feel like eating somebody’s tongue.” And she was like, “No girl, it’s good.” And I put it in my mouth and thought, “This is awful.”
What’s your drink?
Tito’s and club soda.
How often do you cook at home?
Not very often, I eat out a lot.
What’s in your fridge right now?
LaCroix and ground turkey to make more slop. I’m not very adventurous, I eat the same thing every day almost. It’s safe, it’s easy, you’re not mad about how it tastes, because you already know.
What album is the universal dinner party soundtrack?
My roommate will play jazz, but that’s not me. I listen to a lot of R & B. I think R & B is good for dinner parties. I really like Sza right now.
What’s your traveling dining game plan?
I never prepare. If it’s a road trip or we’re going somewhere that takes more than 30 minutes, I’m like, “I’m hungry.” I never plan ahead.
What’s your favorite chain restaurant?
Oh god, okay, I really love Red Lobster. I love those Cheddar Bay Biscuits. And they used to have this Cajun chicken linguine. They since changed the recipe — that was my favorite thing in the world. But I also really like Chili’s because they used to have this chicken Caesar pita, which they’ve since discontinued. And then I really liked Applebee’s, because they had this dessert called the Apple Chimicheesecake, which they’ve since discontinued. So I don’t know!
So all your favorite chain dishes are not there anymore?
Yes, it’s very sad. The Chimicheesecake is honestly the most sad. Have you ever had it?
No, it sounds appealing though.
Okay, I’ll explain it to you real quick. It is cheesecake filling that they put in a tortilla with a little bit of apples, and then they fucking deep fry it and put it on a plate. Then they put ice cream on top. It’s the best thing you can ever have.
Is there any now-closed favorite restaurant that you wish still existed?
Hmm, I don’t think so, because my favorite restaurant still exists.
What is that?
It’s called Toast. It’s in New York, on Broadway between La Salle and Tiemann Place, like by 125th. Their website used to say that it was “truck stop gourmet.” It’s literally my favorite restaurant and it’s dirty and I love it.
What’s your go-to order there?
I used to live above it, so I would go there like almost every day. So I would get: cheese fries, gravy on the side; a Caesar salad with extra cheese, extra dressing, with chicken and bacon; and then they don’t really have desserts there.
What’s your tipping strategy?
I was a server for a while, and I was a very bad one. So when people tipped me well, I felt like it was like, “Let’s get her out of here so she can get a new job.” Serving is hard, and I get it. So I always tip 20 percent or more because I’ve dined with family members who’ve been like, “Well, if they want to make more money, they should get a better job.” And my whole thing is like, well if you can’t afford to tip them or you don’t want to, you should never go out to eat. So yeah, 20 percent or more. If you really get me good, I’ll tip you 50 percent. I just know that sometimes it’s like 50 bucks to make your rent, and then when someone does that, it’s good. It feels great.
What’s your “Proust’s madeleine” — the food or drink that instantly brings back memories?My mom used to make this mac and cheese, and truly, it’s just on the back of this blue box of macaroni noodles. But, like, I know how to tweak it so it tastes like hers, so whenever I make it, it just reminds me of my mom. Red Lobster reminds me of my dad because he would always get coupons and be like, “We’re going to treat ourselves.” Red wine reminds me of the time that I got really drunk and threw up, and I don’t drink that very much any more.
What’s a food secret that more people should know?
I think the world is missing out on adding everything you want to an ice cream concoction. My favorite thing from Dairy Queen is a Peanut Buster Parfait, which is: fudge at the bottom, vanilla ice cream, some peanuts, fudge, peanuts, ice cream, fudge, and it’s layered. But I also really like peanut butter cups, so I’ll put peanut butter cups in there. And then, whenever I go to Cold Stone, I’m like, “Please put enough fudge in it so that you’re embarrassed by it,” because I like fudge. I think people just need to ask for what they want.
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