The 50 Biggest Pop Culture Food Moments of 2016
Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart became VH1's most unlikely power couple.
Unlikely until you consider the facts, that is. Snoop D-o-double-g has been up for anything—porn, professional wrestling, Old Navy commercials—for decades now, and Martha Stewart is a bona fide Renaissance woman. (There's a reason she inspired such a compelling Orange is the New Black character.) These two were meant to be, as first evidenced by this priceless cooking segment from eight years ago. Now, they’re having fried chicken battles and having everyone from Rick Ross to Robin Thicke over for a weekly Potluck Dinner Party.
Recipe: Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
Seth Rogen somehow made grocery shopping dirty with Sausage Party.
It took Seth Rogen and his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg nearly a decade to get Sausage Party greenlit. Which is understandable; it's essentially an existential, Pixar-esque adult flick about anthropomorphic food, complete with a copulating hot dog and rampant bath salts references. The kicker? It made more than $140 million worldwide, about seven times what it cost to make. Now how about a Home Depot sequel featuring animated power tools next?
Beyoncé championed lemonade, hot sauce and Red Lobster (kinda).
The Beyhive is always buzzing these days, whether it's due to Red Lobster and hot sauce drops in the song "Formation" or the album Lemonade itself. While that title may be more of a metaphor—when life gives you lemons, make lemonade—that didn't stop several drink companies from wondering if the sales increases they saw last spring were partially due to pop's reigning Queen. "We're up about 20 percent," Uncle Matt's CEO Matt McLean said in aHuffington Post story. "Maybe it's [because of] Beyoncé. We'd send her some free lemonade—it's organic!"
Recipe: Tabasco-Spiked Vodka Lemonade
Chrissy Teigen released a seriously good cookbook.
When Chrissy Teigen published Cravings, Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat, it felt like the ultimate expression of the model’s savvy-but-sincere personal branding efforts. For years she’d been establishing herself as a credible food lover, sharing pizza pics on Instagram, recipes on her So Delushious blog and her wedding party menu during a Cooking Channel special the she hosted with then-fiancé John Legend. Everyone loved her book, though some were skeptical of her approach to guacamole.
Mario Batali cooked for President Obama's final state dinner.
That age-old adage that celebrity chefs can’t actually cook? It certainly doesn't apply to Mario Batali. The Chew co-host/Crocs enthusiast—and, yes, beloved Italian chef and restaurateur—ran the line at President Obama's final state dinner in October, serving up such Italian staples as agnolotti slathered with butter and sage, beef braciole with a horseradish gremolata and broccoli rabe, and a warm butternut squash salad topped with Pecorino and frisée. The guest of honor was Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi, but it wouldn't be an Obama party without a room full of celebrities—in this case including Chance the Rapper, Jerry Seinfeld and post-dinner performer Gwen Stefani.
Recipe: Mario's Goat Cheese Ravioli
Nicki Minaj invited her Instagram followers over for dinner.
And now, a cautionary tale for celebs who manage their own social media accounts. Here's what happened when Nicki Minaj posted a photo of rice, plantains and kingfish to Instagram with the caption "first plate is for the #Barbz" (her name for her fans): Many of them saw it as an invitation to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal alongside her and Meek Mill. Once Minaj's Twitter feed started blowing up with "I'm coming over!" notifications, Minaj backtracked: "dinner cancelled." Hearts were broken.
Breitbart declared war on... Kellogg's?
When the food megacorp Kellogg's pulled ads from Breitbart as a sign of solidarity against its racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, the far-right website responded with a #DumpKelloggs campaign, claiming the company had declared “war” on “conservative customers.” More than 414,000 Breitbart fans have signed an online petition slamming the Special K company for "bigotry" so far—keep in mind Kellogg's simply pulled its funding—and cereal sales have continued to trend downward. What Breitbart won't tell you is that Kellogg's profits were up 42-percent in the third quarter this year; their sales simply dipped the same way they have the last six quarters. (The reason? Millennials, of course.)
Adele inspired a search for her favorite burrito.
In August, the typically mum Adele posted a tweet that sparked the imaginations of the country’s Mexican food fanatics: "I need to share with you all that I am eating the best burrito of my life. It is an explosively joyous moment." Followers shared her comment more than 56,000 times, but we still don't know where she got it in L.A. Our best, completely speculative guess: Al & Bea’s, which serves a delightfully gloppy bean and cheese number that’s legitimately life-altering.
Anthony Bourdain showed President Obama how to properly slurp noodles.
As hilarious as it was to see Barack Obama heckle Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns a few years ago, the clip was nowhere near as wonderful as the president's secret appearance on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown. (Apparently, CNN didn't even know about it.) Over the course of a simple meal involving the roadside staple bun cha, the pair discussed everything from Asian street food—Obama spent four years living in Jakarta—to the importance of "making peace with your enemies."
Gilmore Girls returned with a Roy Choi cameo and slew of celebrity chef shout-outs.
Gilmore Girls has always been a food-obsessed show. But in the 9 years since it went off the air, the creators seem to have boned up on their celebrity chef knowledge. The four-part revival that came to Netflix this November featured a slew of deep-cut references to restaurant culture and celebrity chefs; Kogi BBQ's own Roy Choi even showed up in the first episode, only to be swiftly fired by Lorelai Gilmore for "running around Tweeting, making me feel uncool." Other chefs who couldn't hack it at her Dragonfly Inn apparently included Alice Waters, April Bloomfield, Anthony Bourdain and David Chang, among others. Such standards, these two!
Recipe: Rum-Spiked Coffee
Selena Gomez won Instagram.
As advertising has become more and more integrated into what we read and watch online, pop stars have taken to turning their social media accounts into digital billboards that can reach millions with one tap. The current queen of product placement is undoubtedly Selena Gomez. About six months ago, her highly stylized #ad for Coca-Cola became the most viral Instagram post ever. It now boasts six million likes and nearly 239,000 comments. As for her creative process, it goes deep: Gomez recently told the Hollywood Reporter, "I try to find a good balance of just being 100 percent myself and knowing when to post a really good selfie with good lighting."
Skittles got into it with Donald Trump Jr.
Before he was destined to take over the business interests of America’s president-elect, Donald Trump Jr. was feuding with a candy company on Twitter. Trump Jr. reposted a meme comparing refugees to Skittles, which read: “If I had a bowl of Skittles and told you 3 of them would kill you, would you eat a handful? No. This is our refugee problem.” Mars, the maker of Skittles, did not appreciate the shout out, saying, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.” The offending tweet is now gone from Trump Jr.’s Twitter feed, and as far as we know people are still eating handfuls of Skittles. So at the moment the score is Mars: 1, Trump: 0.
DJ Khaled, Sturgill Simpson, and Stephen Colbert crashed Waffle House.
Waffle House's jukebox is almost as legendary as its scattered, smothered, and covered hashbrowns. Since country singer Sturgill Simpson and Late Show host Stephen Colbert both enjoyed its music and early morning menu when they were kids, the pair came up with a Waffle House tribute of their own last April. After performing "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Knuckleheads" before a live studio audience, reunited in August to see the single played at Colbert's favorite Wafflehouse in Charleston, South Carolina. A dance party/hilarity ensued. Obviously.
Recipe: Banana Waffles with Pecans
First We Feast and Morgenstern's created another Kanye menu.
If there's one thing Kanye West likes as much as fashion collabs and Kim (well, maybe not that much), it's ice cream. That’s why the inventive Manhattan ice cream shop Morgenstern's and the food website First We Feast collaborated on an entire line of Ye-inspired frozen treats for two weeks in June. Highlights included Father Stracciatella My Hands Pt. 1 (raw-milk ice cream with chunks of quality chocolate), and a Paparazzi Pineapple sorbet that’s slapped "with a kiss of condensed milk." There’s also a white sesame Nori Shake aimed squarely at "the sophisticated two-year-old palate."
Kimye ran up massive bills at Dylan’s Candy Bar and Serendipity 3.
The West-Kardashian clan never did swing by Morgenstern's (maybe they were offended by its "I Am a God" croissantwich?), but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy a sugar rush sometimes. How else to explain the couple's $200 shopping spree at Dylan's Candy Bar one afternoon last August? Or a subsequent frozen hot chocolate stop at the famed dessert destination Serendipity 3? (Not to be confused with Serendipity 1 or 2, the restaurant’s other locations.) North and Saint don't know how lucky they are, do they? Nah, they do.
Recipe: Coconut Chocolate Candy Bars
Scum & Villainy Cantina tickets went on sale.
You read that right: Han Solo's favorite watering hole is going to be a real bar, beamed over to this galaxy next spring. Now that it's cool to like Star Wars again (Thanks J.J. Abrams! See ya Jar Jar!), it would be wise to secure a reservation for the as-yet-undisclosed Hollywood location. Fifty bucks will buy you two drinks, a souvenir glass, two hours of prime Tatooine time and a "challenge coin" that'll cover your next entrance fee. Leave your light saber at home though, please.
Tracy Morgan did a surprise set—at a steakhouse.
When the dinner partners of most Hollywood types are MIA in LA or New York, they simply wait it out at their well-concealed table. Tracy Morgan did no such thing at Old Homestead steakhouse last September. Rather than lay low while his manager ran late, the former SNL star started testing new material for his comeback tour on fellow diners. It was a very 30 Rock moment, actually—about as unscripted and really real as a comedian gets before wrecking a ribeye.
Bill Murray tended bar in Brooklyn.
Bill Murray has always supported his son's culinary career: When Homer was a chef at Brooklyn’s Roebling Tea Room a few years back, countless stories circulated about the elder Murray showing up at the bar/restaurant for a drink or dinner. That's nothing like what happened at 21 Greenpoint, the new place both Murrays have a hand in, this September. For several hours, the beloved former Ghostbuster slung drinks at a packed bar. The drinks were simple—mainly tequila shots or stiff liquor on the rocks—across the bar. Which might explain why someone at the Times overheard him say he was "making nothing in tips" at one point in the night.
Recipe: Cucumber-Infused Tequila
Lady Gaga wrote the foreword to her father’s cookbook.
The Joanne Trattoria Cookbook sounds like a riff on Lady Gaga's recent soft-rock record Joanne, but it's actually a collection of Italian-American recipes by her father, restaurateur Joe Germanotta. Gaga wrote the Sunday sauce-soaked intro instead, leaving Papa G to shine with his signature take on chicken scarpariello and a serious Thanksgiving spread involving Pecorino waffles, salami, fried turkey, and collard greens.
Recipe: Chicken Scarpariello
Justin Timberlake and Rihanna treated fans to pizza.
2016 was, apparently, the year celebrities discovered the seemingly random act of kindness that is ordering fans pizza. In October, Justin Timberlake took #netflixandchill to a new level with #timberlakeandchill—a contest in which he had pizza delivered to a few lucky fans who promoted his new concert film using that very hashtag. A few months earlier, Rihanna had 20 pies dispatched to diehard fans who were waiting in line in the pouring rain to get into a Manchester, England concert. It’s not quite standing under the umbrella with her, but it’s pretty close.
Ted Cruz creeped everyone out with his cheesy poetry.
Just when you thought Texas Senator Ted Cruz couldn't top reading Green Eggs and Ham in the middle of a marathon filibuster session, he waxed ecstatic about the joy of queso dribbling down your chin. Someone clearly needs to get the guy an audiobook deal—maybe one featuring nothing but food haikus—stat.
Recipe: Three Queso Dip
Shaq became a global ambassador for Krispy Kreme.
In a move that makes a hell of a lot more sense than his rap career given his well-documented love of doughnuts, Shaquille O'Neal nabbed his very own Krispy Kreme franchise in Atlanta this October. President/CEO Tony Thompson returned the favor by making Shaq the company's main spokesperson and running a "Shaq-or-Treat" promotion involving signed merch and other "Krispy Kreme surprises". (It's unclear what those might be, but we’re assuming a lifetime supply of glazed doughnuts.)
Recipe: Dunked Dulche de Leche Doughnuts
After the election, an E.T.-shaped cinnamon roll eased the pain for a minute.
As the world debated our rough post-election reality, Reddit user cheftlp1221 provided Democrats with a small dose of relief: the mother of all food photos, a cinnamon roll in the shape of E.T. The discovery was followed by valiant Photoshop efforts and punchlines that didn't quite land or stick. Nice work all around, though. For a moment, distraction reigned.
Recipe: Cinnamon Pecan Buns
Mariah Carey went on a salmon-and-capers diet.
It doesn't get more diva-esque than to claim one has embarked on a diet consisting exclusively of Norwegian salmon and capers. Leave it to Mariah Carey. We don’t recommend it, for what it’s worth: People editor Gina Vaynshteyn tried the diet and, shocker, discovered that too much sodium and not enough fiber makes a girl feel like a sad, bloated New York bagel.
Recipe: Caper and Lemon Baked Salmon
Bob's Burgers got its own cookbook and Eggslut-endorsed cafe.
As if celebrating their 100th episode wasn't enough of an achievement for the folks behind Bob's Burgers, Fox's Simpsons successor found two ways to build on its cult following this year. First, a cookbook featuring more than 70 "real recipes for joke burgers" from Cole Bowden's breakout Tumblr The Bob's Burgers Experiment. Then there was the next logical step: the show's production company, Bento Box, and Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan collaborated on a pop-up exhibition selling affordable pieces by artists who work on the show, as well as takeout window burgers from 10 reputable LA chefs. A highlight from the menu, which only listed one item per day: the Winter Is Cumin burger from Alvin's wine-loving brother Anthony.
50 Cent flexed his cooking skills (or lack thereof) on Patti LaBelle's new show.
While 50 Cent may have survived nine shots with a 9mm, the rapper clearly can't be trusted with corn on the cob. Or as Patti LaBelle said on her new cooking show Patti LaBelle's Place, "When I saw 50 Cent dropping my corn on the floor, I said, 'What?!' Miss Patti never has a dirty kitchen, and we're not going to start today."
Sweetbitter cornered the market as this year's restaurant-related novel.
Much like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Stephanie Danler's smash debut Sweetbitter recast the restaurant world in a lurid, unforgiving light that was seemingly made for the movies. Or, at the very least, a short-lived TV series co-starring Bradley Cooper and Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ugh, that theme song.
Waitress showed the rest of Broadway how it's done (except Hamilton, of course).
Considering what a cult movie Waitress was when it came out in 2007—Keri Russell led the cast when she was perhaps best known for a controversial Felicity haircut—no one could have expected the record-breaking ticket sales of its stage adaptation nearly 10 years later. We're talking millions in sales during a year when not even Steve Martin (the Jerk, people!) could stay afloat on Broadway.
Morgan Spurlock took his new restaurant Holy Chicken for a test run.
If you can't beat 'em (them being McDonald’s), serve 'em your own version of a crispy chicken sandwich, right? That's exactly what Supersize Me director Morgan Spurlock did in Columbus, Ohio, with the four-day trial run of his fast food concept Holy Chicken. The restaurant features an 860-calorie sandwich that ticks all the right hormone-, antibiotic-, and cage-free boxes despite being, you know, 860 calories. It’s expected to open permanently early next year. And, no, this is not a hoax. Or his next movie. We don’t think.
Recipe: Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Jesse Tyler Ferguson tackled 40 restaurant archetypes in Fully Committed.
While doing a one-man show on Broadway is impressive enough on its own, Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson went above and beyond in his performance of playwright Becky Mode’s Fully Committed this year—a show in which he plays 40 different restaurant industry archetypes over the course of 90 intermission-less minutes. Among the cast of characters is a catty maître d', Gwyneth Paltrow's sprightly assistant and a struggling actor working the reservation line at a high-end restaurant he could never afford. Dark but delightful stuff.
In The Founder, Michael Keaton canonized Ray Kroc's role in McDonald's.
Ever wonder why the person responsible for the meteoric rise of McDonald's is actually named Ray Kroc? The Founder sets that story straight, with Michael Keaton chewing up scenery as Kroc and Nick Offerman—sans his trademark mustache, mind you!—playing one of the McDonald brothers he gleefully screwed over. The movie had a limited release in December and will land on nationwide screens in January.
Lil Yachty made us all feel better about eating pizza.
When someone from the YouTube channel 88rising asked Lil Yachty about his favorite Asian food, the self-proclaimed "bubblegum trap" star had a simple answer: "I only eat pizza…. I've been doing it for years…. That's just my life now." And how does he stay so healthy? "I'm not," the svelte rapper said with a smirk. "I'm tired as hell."