Benny Blanco Rapid-Fire Answers All Our Questions About His New Cookbook

The Jewish music maven and food connoisseur chats with Hey Alma about "Open Wide," its '80s bar mitzvah-themed launch party and deep-frying Ed Sheeran's Rolex.

Benny Blanco is a busy guy. The Jewish music maven — who was born Benjamin Joseph Levin — has been at the top of the industry since the late aughts, writing and producing chart-toppers for the likes of Rihanna, Britney Spears, SZA and more. But when he’s not making hits (or starring in “Dave” with his best friend Lil Dicky), Blanco relishes hosting the perfect dinner party. Oh, did we mention that this man can cook? Blanco can very seriously cook.

So it only makes sense that his latest project is a cookbook called “Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends,” co-written with Jess Damuck. “Open Wide” features 18 themed recipe sections with names like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “5 Dishes to Get You Laid and One for the Morning After.” It meticulously lists condiments, spices and tools Blanco has in his kitchen that he thinks you should too. And the book includes concoctions you absolutely won’t find anywhere else, like a milk punch Eric André came up with while he was high and a deep-fried Rolex belonging to Ed Sheeran.

While “Open Wide” makes Benny Blanco a Julia Child for people who try experimental drugs and love to have a good time, it’s also personal to his identity. The cookbook pays homage to Blanco’s Ashkenazi Jewish heritage with the section “Kibitz and Complain.” In it, Blanco highlights Jewish cuisine from his mom’s kugel to homemade pastrami. (In a later section, he includes a recipe for latkes which promise “a 100 percent guarantee of a sexual experience.”) He also shares anecdotes like having Dr. Brown’s soda at the Jewish deli with his dad and his grandmother taking her matzah ball soup recipe to her grave.

Like I said, Benny Blanco is a busy guy. Thankfully, he squeezed in Hey Alma for a rapid-fire Q&A all about his “Open Wide.”

Photo via HarperCollins

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

How does cooking Jewish food connect you to your Jewish identity? What other ways do you find meaning in your Jewishness?

Even more so than actually being religious and going to temple the Jewish cuisine has been such a lubricant bringing my friends and family together in a way that is pretty magical.

What’s your favorite Jewish recipe in ‘Open Wide’ and why?

I’d have to say the kugel. Because although my mother is a terrible cook, I feel like the Jewish fairy puts a little kugel recipe on a note card when you turn 50. Ours doesn’t have raisins because my brother is an idiot.

Do you have a favorite Jewish food memory — one that you shared in the book or otherwise?

I remember the first time I had Dizengoff. I remember picking up the pita, squeezing it. It felt like a pillow but somehow bounced right back into my hands. I ripped it, then I dipped it into the smoothest humus I’d ever seen. When it touched my mouth I realized in that moment food can be better than sex (or just as good).

You’re celebrating the cookbook with an ‘80s bar mitzvah bash. Why?

My friends Mike Solomonov and Jake Cohen wanted to do a thing called Kibitz and Karaoke but it eventually evolved into an ’80s-themed bar mitzvah.  I’ve always wanted to open up a bar that has a bar mitzvah going on inside of it every night and call it Bar Mitzvah.

You’re known for hosting dinner parties. Do you host Shabbat dinners/Passover seders/Yom Kippur break fasts, or anything like that?

I host all the High Holidays.

The cookbook includes recipes from your mom, your grandma Mimi, friends like Eric André and professional chefs like Mike Solomonov. Why was it important to you to include recipes besides your own?

Because food is about bringing people together through stories and experiences. My subtitle is literally about cooking with friends. So how could I not involve them? Our friends and family are all we have.

What did you do with Ed Sheeran’s deep-fried Rolex?  

I cleaned it off, it works perfectly but now smells a little bit like a latke.

“Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends” will publish on April 30.

Read More