Food & Drinks

How Our Favorite People (Outside the Restaurant World) Ate in 2020

In a strange year, when so many hours have been spent quarantining at home, stars have never been more or less like us. While everyone faces different challenges based on income, background, location, and a host of other factors, we all have to eat, and, for the most part, the way we dine has undergone a major overhaul.

Eater reached out to some of our favorite noteworthy people to learn what and where they ate in 2020, from their kitchens to restaurant patios and beyond. With responses from authors Jia Tolentino and Brit Bennett; actors Annie Murphy (Schitt’s Creek) and Maya Erskine (Pen15); multi-hyphenates Marielle Heller (The Queen’s Gambit) and Alexi Pappas (Bravey); musicians Big Freedia, Soccer Mommy, Will Butler, and John Darnielle; cooking personality Andrew Rea; athletes Collin Morikawa and Ross Stripling; and directors Janicza Bravo and Paul Feig, here is the year in eating.


Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half and The Mothers

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

It kind of depends on the stage of quarantine? During the beginning of the lockdown, I was truly eating nothing but junk, just trying to give myself a tiny bit of joy each day. I never panic-bought beans or anything. I was the person panic-buying ice cream and wine.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

[I] gleefully avoided baking bread of any kind.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I’ve been to a few [for outdoor dining in Brooklyn], like Amorina Cucina Rustica, Wild Park Slope, and Alta Calidad.

What did/will it take for you to feel comfortable eating indoors again?

A vaccine.


A black and white photo of Big Freedia with long curled hair, wearing a black tank top, chain necklace, and a tiara.

Big Freedia, bounce artist, author, and cooking personality

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

Most definitely; we don’t go out any more with COVID. But cooking is my favorite creative outlet (after music) and I have always cooked for friends and family, so I am still doing that. My groups are smaller, but I still feed my family.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

Fried chicken and red beans and rice from Neyow’s Creole Cafe.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

My go-to easy crowd-pleaser is chicken wings. You can do so many variations of spices and flavors.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I haven’t, mostly because I’m too busy. But I am hosting Freedia’s Garden Cookout every Friday night at New Orleans City Park. We sell a limited number of tickets each week and cook in front of a live studio audience.

What did/will it take for you to feel comfortable eating indoors again?

A new government that can lead. I think we will get there with this vaccine.


A black and white photo of Janicza Bravo with short cropped hair, wearing a black and white printed blouse.

Janicza Bravo, producer, writer, and director (Zola, Lemon, Forever, Atlanta)

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

Everything stayed the same for me, except that it really did not. I went from craving a home-cooked meal to wanting to saw off my own hands. Early pandemic I was eating more than I have ever eaten. I was eating for four or five, but in one body. Now I’m at my old self, which is eating when I feel like it.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

I abstained from ordering out till late spring/early summer. Was kind of scared to bring foreign things into my home. But then the news said it was okay to touch again, so I’ve dipped a toe or two. The most incredible thing to witness in this moment is the tenacity with which people refuse to give in or up. My go-tos [in Los Angeles]: Pizza and homemade ice cream from Antico, noodles and curry from Night + Market, fried chicken sandwiches and a tub of margaritas from Son of a Gun, toasted everything bagel with scallion cream cheese from Maury’s. I also discovered a handful of folks via Instagram who I have ordered from a lot. De Porres are a couple making southern and Peruvian cuisine. Kinkan is a chef from Bangkok making Japanese food that looks almost too pretty to eat. Then there’s Bridgetown Roti and Caribbean Gourmet, who are tending to my island roots. The latter makes a hot sauce with Scotch bonnet peppers that transports me to my grandmother’s kitchen in Panama.

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

Meat. I’ve gotten more comfortable with flesh. I like eating it sometimes, but meat was something I really took to having while dining out. I made a whole chicken some months back and I won’t be doing that again. Have you ever held a raw whole chicken? It feels like a baby — no thanks.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Coffee.

What did/will it take for you to feel comfortable eating indoors again?

Another world. A new brain?


A black and white image of Will Butler with straight, chin-length hair, wearing a t-shirt that reads “Texas” on the front and has the sleeves cut off.

Will Butler, musician, Arcade Fire

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

Slightly more. The papaya salad and crispy fried rice ball and sausage from Thai Farm Kitchen in Kensington, Brooklyn, is regular-ish treat.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Cheese on toast with horseradish and a fried egg.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

Not myself, but my wife, Jenny, made the King Arthur Flour Detroit-style pizza, and it is really good.

What did/will it take for you to feel comfortable eating indoors again?

Enough government money for workers and the unemployed to know that the staff isn’t being coerced into working. And a widespread vaccine.


A black and white photo of John Darnielle with a short haircut and black-rimmed glasses.

John Darnielle, musician, the Mountain Goats

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

No, we barely order out at all — I think maybe four times since March. Most of my pay in normal times comes from touring, so reducing costs has been essential for us this year.

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

I am embarrassed to say that I have done less cooking this year than in normal times — my wife has done lots of the cooking in 2020. I would say I’ve done more baking this year, though, than I usually do — like a lot of people, we baked a lot of bread in late spring, and desserts now are often cookies or pies we baked ourselves. We did make our own dal makhani a couple of times, which was divine, and the other day I made beghrir, which are the Moroccan semolina pancakes that hit a sort of crepe/crumpet axis — you cook them on one side, the dough is leavened enough that the top sets by itself without having to be flipped — and then you serve them with a 1:1 butter/honey syrup. Really very very wonderful dish, and cheap until you get to the syrup, which is like a stick of butter and 8 tablespoons of honey. You could use jam instead and that would also be good, but the honey-butter syrup is genuinely decadent. The other big thing this year was sharbat, which are concentrated syrups you use to make sweet drinks — there are so many different ones to make — but the lime sharbat from Madhur Jaffrey’s book, this is the best thing in the world.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Any Persian rice dish with a tahdig — I am really into the way that rice technique varies by country, like so many countries have their own version of pilaf/plov and Persian rice is sort of the exalted overlord of the rice scene. Tahdig is the crust that forms on the bottom of the pot while you cook it with the lid on and a sealant (a cloth or layers of paper towels) under the lid; when you do it right, you invert the pot when you’re done and break up the tahdig and it’s crispy and chewy and the flavors are concentrated in it and it’s fantastic.


A black and white photo of actor Maya Erskine with long dark hair, wearing a silk blouse and small chain necklaces.

Maya Erskine, co-creator and co-star of Pen15

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

Yes. I was on the go so much in the beginning of 2020 that I would be eating in the car on the way to work or on set or quickly at home before passing out. But as soon as quarantine began, I slowed down and found so much value and pleasure in sitting down to eat. Making a ritual out of it and taking my time to eat allowed me to fully enjoy the flavors, and my digestion definitely improved.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

When quarantine first began I cooked every single meal and was loving that lifestyle. I pushed myself to learn how to cook new things. After a couple months, however, the novelty wore off and my laziness crept back in. The fear of COVID spreading on cardboard or in takeout food went away and I started ordering in [in Los Angeles] a lot. Ddukbokki from Yupdduk at least once a week, Pine and Crane, and pasta from Speranza. Their pasta travels really well. Also, fish tacos from Tacos Delta.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

Cinnamon rolls!

Have you found yourself drawn to a cooking personality (new to you or long-time trusted is fine!) this year?

I have an obsession with Instagram videos of chefs cooking from their own kitchens. It started with Padma Lakshmi, David Chang, Alex Guarnaschelli, Ina Garten… and now more recently it’s Katie Lee Biegel and Carolina Gelen. Also Alison Roman, but I have been reading her cookbooks and searching YouTube because she doesn’t have a lot of videos of her cooking on Instagram. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a cooking video or reading a really good cookbook.


A black and white image of director Paul Feig in black, square-rimmed glasses, wearing a three-piece suit and tie.

Paul Feig, director (Bridesmaids, Spy, Ghostbusters, A Simple Favor), screenwriter (Freaks and Geeks), and founder of Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

More than anything, I’ve rediscovered all this stuff that I used to do. Experimenting with a bunch of different cuisines — it’s just in my nature. I’ve always wanted to work through the hardest thing first. And so the first thing I ever got into was like French cooking. Months in, I got into Italian cooking because two things happened. One was that, years ago, while living in London, I discovered this restaurant called Passione [now closed], which was owned by Gennaro Contaldo. He’s the guy that taught Jamie Oliver how to cook. He has a Passione cookbook and it was life changer because the recipes were all so simple, but everything was great. And it was the first time I kind of went, ‘Oh, it’s about the ingredients.’ So that really led me into falling in love with Italian cooking. And then the other book that changed things for me was Nigel Slater’s Appetite, which broke me of all my hyper-anal tendencies.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

We were getting prepared food from Heirloom LA. They got me through the beginning of the pandemic when I was most terrified. But then it was just this natural moment when [my wife and I] were both like, ‘Hey, we don’t need to have that right now. Let’s go to the next thing.’ And that’s what we started cooking. Every once in a blue moon we’ll look at ordering sushi or if we’re feeling really, really decadent, there’s a Gino’s pizza that opened in the Valley in LA. Deep-dish pizza, and we regret after we were done but it’s so good in the moment.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

Roast chicken. We throw root vegetables into this clay pot that we cook it in. Our secret is we marinate the chicken in vermouth. It works really well and it’s more fun than wine because it gives a little bit more body in there. [The original recipe] is from the River Café cookbook; they dust it with nutmeg. The other thing I picked up during quarantine was cocktail making because I was doing an Instagram cocktail show every night for the first 100 days of quarantine.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I’m doing a job in Wilmington, North Carolina. I’m living in Wilmington, North Carolina. The other night, we went to a restaurant called Pinpoint. It’s getting cooler here now, so they moved a lot of the dining inside, but still have a roped-off area out on the street. It was cold, but it was nice. There’s an Italian restaurant called Floriana and it’s in an old, old, old building. It’s got all these little balconies that have their own door that lead out to tables for two. The servers open the door and take your order, then close it. So it’s actually kind of like the most pandemic-proof restaurants, and you get to have this lovely meal out of this pretty patio.


A black and white image of actor/director Marielle Heller with chin-length, slicked back black hair, wearing a dark blouse with epaulets.

Marielle Heller, director (It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and actor (The Queen’s Gambit)

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

A positive part of the pandemic has been family meals — we eat at least breakfast and dinner as a family every day. I’ve cooked almost all of our meals since the pandemic began and cooked them on a 100-year-old wood-burning stove. We went from living in Brooklyn where we ordered food fairly often, to living out in the country where there is one pizza place in the town for delivery. That’s a lot of meals on an ancient stove. But it’s also been a stress reliever for me.

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

Like everyone, I took up sourdough baking. But I had a Jedi master in my brother Nate. He called me one of his crumb bums. He’s been baking for years — and he’s watching with amusement while everyone became sourdough newbies. He mentored me and a few other friends on our sourdough journey. I doubt I’ll ever be as good of a baker as he is.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

I’m loving the King Arthur crispy pan pizza recipe that you make in a cast-iron pan. You have to plan and start the dough the night before, though.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

I’ve baked more in these months than ever in my life. It didn’t help that I was also pregnant for nine months of this year. When I got a pregnancy craving, I would just make it. I have made cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and crumpets (another King Arthur recipe that I’ve made at least a dozen times).


In black and white, golfer Collin Morikawa smiles while wearing a black golf shirt.

Collin Morikawa, professional golfer, 2020 PGA Championship winner

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

Absolutely. My girlfriend and I tried to cook as much as we could the first couple of months during COVID-19. However, there came this point of just missing restaurant food. We’ve become very comfortable bringing takeout home and making our couch the new “dining table.” We certainly miss the experience of eating in restaurants!

What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

When I’m on the road for a while, I’ll always come back and get In-N-Out. When I’ve got a craving for noodles, a local spot in Las Vegas called Magic Noodle. It always satisfies!

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

Yes, we actually bought one of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbooks and tried to bake her famous banana bread. We’ll have to get a review from her.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I’ve eaten at restaurants a handful of times now. One specific time was at Cipriani at the Wynn in Las Vegas to celebrate my PGA Championship win. It’s been a very slow and cautious trip each time I decide to go because I have to think about safety of not just myself but the others I could be with. I think for me, eating indoors will feel safe when there’s ample space inside. Obviously people like to go to busy/crowded restaurants because either the atmosphere or food are amazing (or both!), but with a surplus of people, safety becomes a risk at the same time.

Have you found yourself drawn to a cooking personality (new to you or long-time trusted is fine!) this year?

If you don’t know me yet, well, here you go. Food Network is on my TV all the time. I love watching cooking shows and competitions because good food never disappoints. I’ve always enjoyed Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay, but this year I’ve become a huge fan of both David Chang and Nick DiGiovanni. When it’s safe, I hope to get the chance to experience their cuisine, and maybe even get some cooking tips!


A black and white photo of actor Annie Murphy with her hair in a loose top knot, wearing a white blazer.

Annie Murphy, actor (Schitt’s Creek)

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, sorry. I thought this was a joke question. Uhhhh, yeah. They’ve changed. In 2020, eating, drinking, and watching TV have gone from being pretty goodish friends of mine to being dear, kindred-spirit soul sisters who I tremble to think of life without.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

AHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Oh, sorry I thought this was a joke question, too. Uhhhh, yeah. I’ve been ordering out more. A large part of that decision is to do what I can to support local restaurants in Toronto, but also, let’s be honest, a large part of that decision is also because I have A LOT of TV to watch, so I’ve been too busy to cook. My go-to (and I’m talking a couple of times a week, don’t @ me) is a butter chicken roti (medium spicy) from Mother India. *double chef’s kiss*

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

I don’t know if I’d call it a “meal,” per se? But I make some meeeeeean nachos. Are they easy? Yes. Are they friggin delicious every single time? Yes. Can you fancy them up from just a snack to yes, let’s say it, more of a “meal” by adding ground beef or chicken? Yes. You. Can. Can you convince yourself that you could be a professional food stylist by sprinkling cilantro on top? Yes, duh. So yeah. Nachos are my favorite MEAL to make at home.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I have eaten on a patio at a delicious Italian place in Toronto called Nudo, and I’ve also eaten on the patio at a place with an incredible steak sandwich called Victory Point in Quincy, Massachusetts. I have to say that though it was SO NICE to eat at a restaurant again, and things were being thoroughly sanitized and distanced, it still felt… off.


A black and white photo of Alexi Pappas with curly shoulder length hair, wearing a floral-printed shirt and beaded necklace.

Alexi Pappas, Olympic long-distance athlete, filmmaker, and author of Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

Right before the COVID pandemic started, I flew to Greece for what I thought would be a short training camp, but I ended up being stuck there due to border closures for almost five months! My dining habits changed there because I adapted to what was around me. In Greece, I ate much more homemade bread from the small Yiayia-owned shop up the street. I got takeout from a restaurant that did all-Greek foods: spanakopita, souvlaki, keftethes, moussaka, pastitio, and more. I also found a local fish market and tried to cook sardines for the first time. I used olive oil and fresh lemon much more than I did in LA, and brought that habit back with me. (I even put the olive oil on my face as face oil!) I also started eating lots more honey in Greece, because the coach I met and started working with out there truly believes that eating local (if possible) honey 30 minutes before workouts is key.

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

I’ve discovered a lot more of the local dining takeout during the pandemic. My favorites being the vegetarian lunch special at Indian Sweets & Spices in Woodland Hills and lamb and eggplant from Woodland Hills Market, where they bake amazingly fresh sangak (Iranian flatbread topped with sesame seeds) in a wood-fired oven with a rotating interior and then hang each three-foot-long flatbread up to dry on hooks like at a butcher’s shop. I also mention this in my upcoming book, Bravey, but as it turns out, Maya Rudolph (who wrote the foreword) lives one neighborhood away from me in the Valley, and Maya once wrote me a list of her fave local restaurants. I laminated the list and keep it on my desk: it feels like good energy and good luck!

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I have not eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown, because my athletic career depends on my physical health and it doesn’t feel smart to dine in just yet. However, we’ve supported our local favorites by ordering takeout!

What did/will it take for you to feel comfortable eating indoors again?

I will feel comfortable eating indoors when I feel like it would be safe enough to go with grandparents.


In black and white, a bearded and head-shaven Andrew Rea wears sunglasses and a striped button-down.

Andrew Rea, Binging With Babish

Have your dining/eating habits changed in 2020?

My dining habits remain relatively unchanged: haphazardly picking at the leftover creations from the show and ordering takeout when I realize it’s 3 p.m. and I haven’t eaten yet. I’m trying to be healthier, so I’ve worked some frozen entrees and smoothies from Daily Harvest into the routine.

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

Like so many quarantiners, I’ve been working on my bread game. A recent pizza dough episode helped me “see the matrix” of bread making; I’m finally understanding how gluten must be developed, the importance of fermentation, and the different stages of rising and shaping. Also, I finally took a crack at a lacy, crispy skirt around some pork and cabbage potstickers.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

Being allergic to bananas (I think?), and with my girlfriend’s profound hatred of the tropical treat, banana bread hasn’t crossed my threshold in many moons. I don’t know if wood-fired pizza is a “viral” thing, but if it is, just call me Tay Zonday and cover me in slime.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

I’ve eaten at several restaurants [in New York], mostly outdoors — I’m “lucky” enough to have caught COVID early on, back in March, and still have the antibodies according to recent tests. I’ve eaten at Meadowsweet, Aurora, Diner — places that just aren’t the same when delivered at home. I still engage in every precaution, including wearing your mask when your server is near the table, something I encourage anyone dining out to do. I will continue dining out occasionally as long as I can do it responsibly, and find any way I can to support my local restaurants.


In black and white, musician Soccer Mommy wears a large t-shirt and her hair in pigtails.

Soccer Mommy, musician (Color Theory, Clean, Soccer Mommy)

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

I’ve been ordering out fairly often. I love going to Siam Cafe [in Nashville] and getting the basil chicken. It’s [close to me], which is nice.

What’s your favorite meal to make at home?

I like to make my mom’s white-bean chicken chili. Whenever I make it, I pretty much live off it for a few days.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

The only place I’ve eaten is at a drive-in, which I guess kind of counts. Other than that I only pick up to keep it safe.

Have you found yourself drawn to a cooking personality (new to you or long-time trusted is fine!) this year?

I’ve been watching Liziqi videos on YouTube. They’re all so cool.


In a black and white image, Ross Stripling poses in his old Dodgers uniform.

Ross Stripling, professional baseball player with the Toronto Blue Jays

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

In late March and April, we really stocked up on food to eat at home. Those months we almost exclusively cooked and ate at home. As time has passed, we have begun to order out much more. We still want to eat the food from our favorite restaurants and support local businesses as much as we can. There is local Italian restaurant in Houston called Coltivare that we love. Black-pepper spaghetti and a pizza to share is our go-to takeout order.

Have you learned to cook anything new while sheltering in place?

Despite cooking at home more often than ever, we have not branched out much in the items that we make. My wife, Shelby, and I will often switch up the days we cook, and we each have a few specialties we like to mix in. Shelby likes to do stuffed red bell peppers and Mexican lasagna. I make a lot of “chipotle”-style bowls and spaghetti squash. If anything, we have used the Crockpot much more than ever before.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

From late March until mid-October, we did not eat at a single restaurant. Between my wife being pregnant and the strict rules around Major League Baseball, we did not want to risk obtaining the virus. After the season, we returned to Texas and have very sparingly eaten at our favorite restaurants. And we have only sat outside. I believe we have only eaten at three restaurants in the last eight months. That’s pretty crazy to think about.


A black and white photo of Jia Tolentino with blonde hair pulled into a low bun, wearing a leopard-print blouse.

Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion

Have you been ordering out more? What’s your go-to takeout order and where is it from?

I’ve gone through phases, cooking everything I eat and then ordering almost everything I eat, partly because I had a baby so I’ve had dramatically fluctuating amounts of free time. As was true before the pandemic, I usually just order the things I can’t cook myself, like sushi and Thai. Other standbys: Russ & Daughters, Brooklyn Kolache Co., Han Dynasty, ham-and-cheese croissants from Bittersweet.

Have you attempted banana bread or a viral recipe in the past six months?

I am a longtime habitual banana bread maker, but I actually stopped making it during the pandemic because one loaf didn’t rise for some reason and I was depressed and fixated enough to take it as a personal referendum on my ability to do anything right. I switched to other loaf cakes, like that Earl Grey one we were all making, and lemon poppyseed for a while.

Have you eaten at a restaurant since the COVID-19 shutdown? If yes, what restaurant? If no, why not?

It took me until October to physically sit down outdoors at a restaurant, and then I did it every day for a week: I was in Maine, it was the end of the season, people were sparse, and the fresh-air vibe was really intoxicating. Since then I’ve had dinner outside at a restaurant — shoutout to the cacio e pepe at Vic’s in Manhattan — just once, figuring that I’d better savor one “normal” evening with friends before winter set in.

Have you found yourself drawn to a cooking personality (new to you or long-time trusted is fine!) this year?

I’ve been teaching myself how to make more Asian food at home, and I’ve been somewhat conscious that if I don’t learn how to make Filipino food myself, my baby will essentially not grow up with any of the things I grew up eating at family parties — I’ve had a lot of fun cooking out of Nicole Ponseca’s great cookbook I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Sara Wong is an illustrator with a big stubborn dog and more plants than she can handle, currently residing in Charm City.



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