benny Takes You There

benny blanco wants to see your O Face. He wants to push you to the edge of ecstatic abandon. He wants to appeal to your senses—aurally, visually, gastronomically. So, who is this guy and why does he want to make you… you know?


benny blanco wants to see your O Face. He wants to push you to the edge of ecstatic abandon. He wants to appeal to your senses—aurally, visually, gastronomically.

So, who is this guy and why does he want to make you… you know?

benny blanco and Jess Damuck in the kitchen

Let’s start from the beginning, because, while you might not recognize blanco (lowercase preferred), some aspect of his multi-hyphenate media onslaught has certainly seeped into your conscious or subconscious, made you tap your toes or even lick your lips. He’s provided the soundtrack to your summer, your workout, your commute. There’s no way you haven’t heard the chart-topping hits he’s written and produced for artists from Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Kesha, as well as Taio Cruz, Maroon 5, and his girlfriend Selena Gomez. Maybe you’ve even heard his own tracks from his album Friends Keep Secrets. Perhaps you’ve seen him on TV playing a fictionalized version of himself on FXX’s “Dave.” Or maybe you caught him on Instagram (or Foodstagram, if you will) sliding into the feeds of Half Baked Harvest, teaching Paris Hilton how to make lobster and Bloody Marys, or preparing one of his hundreds of high-level stoner recipes that are decadent, familiar, delicious, and comforting all at the same time.

blanco is young, rich, mega-talented, super-successful, and in possession of an enviably hip A-list posse, which might make you wonder: What the hell is he doing in the kitchen so frequently? The answer is simple: having fun and trying to make you, er, smile.

When I show up at blanco’s Hollywood Hills home he’s not feeling great, which is preventing him from fully going to town in the kitchen. Dressed in a terry cloth cabana set (he’ll later add white lace ankle socks and crocodile loafers), he’s lounging on his massive sofa, his chatter ping-ponging from last weekend’s dinner parties (epic) to what he and Selena are going to cook that evening on their Zoom date while she’s filming in Canada (he’s not telling) to next week’s dinner parties (he’s not sure what’s on tap). His food of choice when sick is anchovies on toast (it also happens to be mine) so he’s been popping tins all morning until his appetite returns. “I sneak anchovies in everything,” he explains. “People claim they don’t like them but I love that little salty mouth-punch.”

Just thinking about anchovies gets blanco’s gears turning, setting in motion his rarely abandoned quest to curate, create, and elevate everyone’s experiences. He bounds to the kitchen and swiftly returns with two imported tins of anchovies that he presses into my hands along with hyperbolic praise, as well as a potato chip that he’s loaded with white Osetra caviar. “O Face. Am I right?”

benny getting ready to grill in his Big Green Egg

blanco’s house is an enviable culinary playground—a bespoke Neapolitan pizza oven with BLANCO tiled on the dome, a custom Santa Maria grill, a Big Green Egg. There’s an entire room for candy and a large, tasteful kitchen that looks like something you’d find in gracious Greenwich, Connecticut, rather than the 420-friendly food lab of a superstar music producer. While the rest of us were just baking bread during COVID, he spent lockdown perfecting Japanese rice and cultivating the perfect chirashi bowl. According to blanco he made rice every day for three years until he got it right. And, he tells me, there’s still room for improvement.

His current obsession is African cuisine, in particular Ethiopian. He’s not sure whether he’s going to attempt the polarizing injera bread—which he loves, by the way—like, really loves, as in “it’s my favorite thing on earth.” He waxes poetic about the Ethiopian food scene in Los Angeles, name dropping Jonathan Gold favorites—Lalibela and Meals by Genet. In fact, many of blanco’s top restaurants are straight out of the Gold playbook of divey, delicious, and extreme including Spicy BBQ, a hole-in-the-wall northern Thai for those in the know, Northern Thai Food Club (home of the most insane Sai Ua sausage on earth—trust), Jitlada, and Tacos Y Birria La Unica.

A feast with avocado bites, crudo with edible flowers, Westholme wagyu, Purefish Osetra caviar, potato chips and sour cream

Although he’s best known for his music, blanco has been making an assault on the food world for some time—hosting two TV shows, “Matty and Benny Eat Out America” and “Stupid F*cking Cooking Show,” with his buddy, the fiercely irreverent chef Matty Matheson whom you surely know as the handyman on “The Bear.” blanco belongs squarely in the new breed of gonzo foodie for whom Anthony Bourdain and Roy Choi opened up the door and Instagram rolled out the red carpet. It’s a world populated by Mukbangs (quasi-pornographic eating shows), TikTok viral recipes (that goddamned feta pasta), and unhinged food challenges (go ahead—cook that steak in 16 sticks of butter). But there’s also a great deal of love and respect for culture and cuisine, risks and flavor, and the notion that food can embody all sorts of contradictions—be fussy yet fun, dirty yet pricey, cheap but elevated.

benny is into the caviar. On the kitchen wall are Victorinox Wood Series Chef and Santoku Knives

Growing up with a single mom in northern Virginia, blanco’s passion for food and music blossomed in tandem. I’m not going to say weed was to blame for either of these but, according to blanco, it didn’t hurt the process. At the same time that he first got paid to lay beats—his skills would soon land him a mentorship with acclaimed producer Dr. Luke—he and his friends were getting baked and messing around on a George Foreman Grill both to feed themselves and, in the time-honored tradition of all halfway decent stoners, cook some totally wild and unhinged shit. As blanco’s success in the studio exploded, his culinary experimentation and his extreme tastes kept pace. The result—his latest, and in some ways most outlandish, production: his first cookbook Open Wide, which dropped in May.

Thai cuisine doesn’t make it into Open Wide, created with the help of cookbook author, recipe developer and food stylist Jess Damuck (formerly Martha Stewart’s right hand). Neither does Indian, another of blanco’s favorites, because no matter how proficient he gets, at the end of the day “I’m just a white guy making Indian food.” Instead, there are recipe collections divided into sections such as “Saucy Shawarma Soiree, “F*ck Morton’s Steakhouse,” and “Kibitz and Complain.” There’s irreverence and decadence to spare but there’s always a steady hand on the tiller, which is probably Damuck’s.

Jess makes the Orange and Pistachio Salad from Open Wide

Open Wide is a ribald trip through blanco’s various obsessions—food that will get you laid, a toro uni sex plate, food for the morning after you’ve gotten laid, the world’s best chirashi, and a clothing iron quesadilla. The book is a love song to blanco’s penchant for combining highbrow with lowbrow, elevating the accessible and making you reach for the stars. After all this is a man who gets his fish shipped from Japan but also digs gas station sushi. Preach.

blanco and Damuck met through her boyfriend Ben Sinclair, who wrote and directed HBO’s culty “High Maintenance.” In the kitchen, they might seem like an odd couple—Damuck’s healthy, restrained approach to cooking and blanco’s wild freestyle. But the synergy works on the plate and on the page. And their collab cuts both ways, influencing Damuck’s latest cookbook, Health Nut, which pubbed a few weeks before Open Wide. Coming home late to work on her own book after hours of recipe testing with blanco, who up until the last day persisted in asking, “Do we really need to use measuring spoons,” Damuck realized that her recipes needed to be more accessible and facile for the similarly exhausted.

Open Wide is the result of blanco and Damuck’s hot ticket dinner parties, which have been widely covered in the media and feature a rotating cast of the hippest and the coolest people in town that day. Their styles are vastly different. Damuck cooks more spontaneously but also carefully; blanco will forget how much flour he added to a bowl. But he’s also the planner, fretting with Damuck over Facetime about every little detail for the upcoming event.

This obsessive approach makes perfect sense—because what is an album or a song if not a curated, thoughtful experience meant to evoke emotion and excitement, transport you, make your eyes roll back in your head as you momentarily step outside yourself. Ditto food. When benny blanco prepares a meal, every aspect of the experience—the order of dishes, the soundtrack, the guest list, the seating area or areas, the particular strain of complementary cannabis—is thoughtfully layered and perfectly curated. And the result might just make you come… back for more.


Victorinox, PureFish Seafood and Caviar, Big Green Egg, Westholme Wagyu, Match Stoneware

Produced by Zoe Gitter, Food Stylist: Brett Long, Prop Stylist: Randi Brookman Harris


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