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The D-List Celebrity’s Guide to Becoming a Food Influencer

Some tips on launching your food empire from Who? Weekly’s Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber 

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Having reached the end of the decade, it’s become harder and harder for celebrities — both Whos and Thems — to differentiate themselves among throngs of Riverdale stars, Instagram influencers, and TikTok celebrities. To stay in the limelight, you must push beyond the skill that made you famous originally, be it singing, acting, benefiting from nepotism, appearing on reality shows, or some mix of the above.

So next time you, a struggling celebrity, find yourself at Kiernan Shipka’s birthday party or idling in front of Ellen DeGeneres’s front gate thinking, “There’s gotta be more to life,” why not consider starting a food empire with your name on it? Practically all your other famous friends are doing it, so why not you, too? Here’s how to do it:

Decide you want to “lean in” on food

According to your publicist, “Everyone likes food.” Saying you like it too is an easy way to connect with the masses, your adoring fans, and perhaps even the people who don’t know they love you yet. Not only that, but you (being rich) have already eaten at some of the nicest restaurants, and always ordered the best thing on the menu. Besides, you know at least as much about food and eating as your dear girlfriend Sarah Michelle Gellar (you’ve known each other since you played a cheerleader on an episode of Buffy in 1998, and you even double-dated with her and Freddie Prinze Jr. once) and she started her own baking company, Foodstirs. That’s definitely something you’d be into doing, you texted her last week. “Right, sure, definitely,” she replied.

Create your personal food narrative

While you might be tempted to begin this new venture by shouting about your love of food immediately, to anyone who’ll listen, it’s important to begin with some semblance of a strategy so that your new passion will be deemed “authentic” by the general public. In case you weren’t already, start eating food! Figure out what you like, how and where you like to eat it, who you like to eat it with, and whether you’re gastrointestinally incapable of digesting it properly. (Bonus points if you’re not, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) Perhaps you’re into salads, grain bowls, and eating at home! Or maybe you like having people over for... grilled pizzas? What about kids? (Do you have any? Are they picky eaters? Do you hide vegetables in their brownies? Would you?) Are you like Laguna Beach alum Kristin Cavallari, who, in her cookbook True Roots, shows you that improving the way you eat doesn’t have to be difficult — in fact, a clean and toxin-free diet can and should be fun, easy, and, according to a book blurb by E!’s Giuliana Rancic, “kid- and spouse-approved!” Maybe you’re more like Al Roker, whose Big Bad Book Barbecue tells tales of early memories of his father pulling out the family grill. Or Coolio, who “makes 5 star meals at a 1 star price” in Cookin’ with Coolio.

Start talking publicly about food

Any good celebrity food empire begins with a solid — if not hastily built — foundation. Begin by projecting that you are “utterly and hopelessly obsessed with all things food,” a line you’re free to use in your Instagram bio. Take photos of food you eat, food you cook for yourself, food you make for others, food other people make for you, food you playfully (and, for bonus points, sexily) hold up to your mouth without actually taking a bite, and food you screenshotted from YouTube. How do other celebs talk about food? Queer Eye’s resident avocado fan, Antoni Porowski, writes on his Instagram: “I wonder what life would be like if I put as much effort into paying attention during important conversations as I do picking out squash.”

This isn’t about counting calories, it’s about counting likes. (And RTs.)

Do your research (or have someone do it for you)

Read Sheryl Crow’s If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons, Eva Longoria’s Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends, Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet. Have your assistant cook you something from Ayesha Curry’s The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well and Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings. Deconstruct Tiffani Thiessen’s chia seed pudding or Tia Mowry’s salmon croquettes. Page through Patricia Heaton’s Food for Family and Friends: 100 Favorite Recipes for a Busy, Happy Life. If they can do it, so can you! Maybe...

Meet up with your “team”

By this point, your team will probably have noticed your recent uptick in food-related content, and will have scheduled a call to discuss some of their thoughts about this sudden new direction. If they have not, reprimand them for not paying attention to your evolving social presence, then get them all on the horn to discuss your big idea. “I’m starting a food empire,” you say to them, biting into your Sweetgreen. Fire the ones who laugh, both because they are disrespectful and because they have an inaccurate perception of what it means to be famous in 2019. You will not necessarily get any new ideas from this little powwow, but you will receive a burst of confidence by your team’s fervent and contractually obligated approval of this new trajectory.

Find your niche

Is it snacks? Gourmet? Gluten-free? Gluten-full? Southern? Adult? Baby? Are you diving into Italian, like Victoria Gotti in Hot Italian Dish: A Cookbook? Or opulence, like Liberace in Liberace Cooks! Hundreds of Delicious Recipes for You from His Seven Dining Rooms? Go with the tried-and-true country home-cooking or, if you’re feeling crazy, go for something out of left field. How would you make party food feel like you? Recall that time you went to a child’s birthday party at Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s palazzo and the food was really terrible. You could revamp children’s birthday party foods, like, uh, mac and cheese... served in the shape of a cupcake. Genius! And now that your frenemy Jessica Biel’s Au Fudge — supposedly a Soho House for kids — has closed, there’s space in the market! On that note, maybe you should open a Soho House for kids...

Find your ghostwrit—I mean, “co-author”

You didn’t think you had to actually write this thing yourself, did you? Once you’ve decided that children’s birthday party foods are your thing, it’s time to hand this off to a professional who actually knows what they’re doing. While you might be asked to provide a two-page introduction along with a personal anecdote about each recipe, don’t worry about your typing skills. This can all be done over the phone, while you’re busy eating whatever food you normally eat that we wouldn’t dare publish a cookbook about, like that smoothie you make every morning out of high-end collagen, rare berries, and sparkly powders you can only buy from Gwyneth Paltrow’s mindfulness instructor. Transcription services exist for a reason, you know! We’ll also schedule a photoshoot for the 15th, so make sure your kids take the day off from school so they can participate as well.

Get social, again!

This multi-step process is one of the most important stages of your cookbook launch, as it drives pre-orders. First, you must change all of your social media avatars to be of you eating food. Nothing too sexy, but nothing not sexy. Spaghetti with marinara and extremely sloppy burgers are two sure-fire winners, but if you can’t find an image you approve, we’ll put another shoot on the calendar, or maybe even tack half an hour onto the 15th. It’s also crucial that you start a YouTube channel on which you will put three to five videos of you either preparing meals from your book or merely talking about meals from your book. (As a relatable alternative, you can also use Facebook, like your friend of a friend — well, your agent knows her agent — Jennifer Garner does.) Unfortunately, we don’t have the budget for a video team, so this will have to come out of your pocket. If these four videos perform, you’ll make more. If no one watches them, feel free to abandon ship. No one will ever notice.

Give your PR person a raise… or don’t!

Throughout the final month before your book is published, secure as much coverage as possible in supermarket tabloids like Us Weekly, People, Star, and Life & Style. Remember that recipe for you scrapped from the final draft? Send it to each of them and call it an exclusive. Don’t overthink it: Remember, Pippa Middleton (who you sat next to at LA Fashion Week — or at least it was someone who looked vaguely like her, though she had an American accent) once suggested buying and/or freezing ice before a party, and that was considered expert advice, so your recipe for hot cocoa with store-bought marshmallows will perform just as well.

Also, book appearances on TODAY, Ellen, Rachael Ray, and Kelly Clarkson. Because TV time is more competitive than tabloid space, consider working in an additional personal story as a complement to your book promotion. Are you and your spouse considering IVF? Tell that to Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb before teaching them how to make your ultimate nachos. Did struggling with IBS teach you the value of public bidets? Use that to hawk your probiotic yogurt Instant Pot recipe. Was losing your mother harder on you than you ever thought it would be? A perfect lead in to that recipe for No-Bake Gluten Free Get Up ‘N Go Bars you give your kids every morning. They’re sweetened with dates, not cane sugar! (IMPORTANT: You will probably have to cook one of your recipes for talk-show appearances. So… learn how to do that.)

Celebrate good times

Make sure there’s Champagne on hand to celebrate when your cookbook hits No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list… for Advice, How-Tos, and Miscellaneous. It means you’ve sold more than 100 copies. Mazel!

Wait until the Food Network calls

...And when they do, you’ll be ready. If Tricia Yearwood can pivot, so can you.

And if they don’t call?

Bridget Moynahan didn’t go down with The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family to the Table, and you won’t go down with yours either. On to the next pivot: playing a parent on a CW show.

Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber co-host Who? Weekly, a podcast about Whos, Thems, and all the things they’re cooking up.
Nick Iluzada is a designer and snack enthusiast in Los Angeles.