LA-BASED MULTIHYPHENATE (comedian-actor-director-winemaker-very tall man) Eric Wareheim is best known for his satirical, off-center comedy as one half of the duo Tim & Eric, and for his role as “token white friend” Arnold Baumheiser on the Netflix comedy “Master of None,” alongside Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe. But for years Wareheim has also been building his culinary chops: riffing on the German family recipes he grew up with in Pennsylvania, learning how to make pasta while filming in Italy, and deepening his knowledge of global cuisine by cooking and eating adventurously. Wareheim’s travels have taken him to some of the best restaurants on earth. His Instagram account has long functioned as a kind of food blog. Now, along with writer Emily Timberlake, he has released “Foodheim,” a cookbook that feels equal parts practical and psychedelic.
The joy of 'Foodheim' lies in the fact that Wareheim is able to blend his uniquely playful comedic sensibility with a genuine reverence for food.
Wareheim’s love of food blossomed in his early adulthood. After a stint as a vegetarian in the days before Whole Foods, which he describes as bleak (“a dry veggie patty on a previously frozen bagel was a highlight in those days”), Wareheim worked as an assistant wedding videographer, where he learned to sneak shrimp on breaks. When he and Tim Heidecker moved to Los Angeles and found breakout success, his culinary horizons expanded beyond anything he’d previously imagined. The comedy duo sampled the dizzying array of global foods on offer in LA, and gained more opportunities to travel. They began touring their live comedy show, and ended up eating at the famed Alinea, Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago. With that meal, Wareheim writes, his “great awakening to the art and beauty of food” was complete.
“Foodheim” overflows with the comedian’s signature weirdness. Everything is abbreviated (“Beef Bourg,” anyone?) or nicknamed (pictures of Wareheim and Ansari are labeled “Big Bud” and “Lil Bud”). In what feels like a nod to The Cars’ video for “You Might Think” in the ’80s, an entire page is devoted to an image of model Madison Borbély (Wareheim’s wife) with red lips and nails, taking a bite out of a juicy burger that has a tiny Wareheim figure sticking out of it. A three-page aside called “Small Horses Chapter” finds Wareheim (again, tiny, floating in the middle of the page) thinking, “Small horses are beautiful, but they are for petting, not for eating.” There are recipes for a sandwich called “Pork Dork,” based on the tonkatsu sandwiches Wareheim has snacked on in Japan, or “Fish Freak,” a fried sole sandwich and homage to a Tampa seafood shack’s perfect offering.
But the joy of “Foodheim” lies in the fact that Wareheim is able to blend his uniquely playful comedic sensibility with a genuine reverence for food. The guy is serious. Describing his approach to “Fish Freak,” he writes that he hates when mediocre fish is hidden under mayo-heavy slaw: “If you use fresh, beautifully delicate whitefish, you want to elevate it, not hide it. That’s why I use sour cream instead of mayonnaise, which makes the sauce tangier and more elegant, like a Danish-style remoulade.”
A very charming, very practical section of the book is devoted to “Grandma Foods.” The category was spawned by Wareheim’s memories of his Oma, his mother’s mother, who “worked magic with humble ingredients” during his childhood visits to her in Germany. But the section extends to include simple, comforting recipes from around the world. “I realized Grandma Foods are truly universal,” he writes. “In every culture, you’ll find a home-cooking tradition of taking affordable, abundant regional ingredients — staples such as potatoes, tomatoes, rice, or onions — and cooking them with time and care to create something exquisite.” I myself affixed Post-its to nearly all the recipes in this section: “Nonna Sauce,” “Pappardelle with Cream, Peas, and Leeks,” “Naughty ‘n’ Nice Meatballs,” and more.
“Foodheim” is comprehensive: The book also includes chapters on pizza making (Wareheim is obsessed); cooking chicken; “Juicy Foods” (everything from grilled steak to hamachi sashimi with grapefruit); wine (Wareheim has his own wine company, Las Jaras, with vintner friend Joel Burt); and even cocktails (he offers his own recipes for classics like the martini, Manhattan, and Bloody Mary).
But though you’ll find practical advice in this book (which the authors rightfully call a “culinary adventure”) on everything from pantry essentials to the world’s best wine regions, for Wareheim it always comes back to fun. The final pages of the book are devoted to what he calls “Bliss Mode Party,” a state of life-affirming, seafood-heavy revelry involving friends, caviar on potato chips, and thoughtful wine pairings. The book concludes with a full-bleed, double-page spread of 6-foot-7-inch Wareheim in a pale pink suit, reclining on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool sparkling with sunlight. The text reads, “Bliss Mode Achieved.”
Nina Renata Aron Writer
Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of “Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls.” Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.