You might have the strange feeling that you’ve already had Jesse Tyler Ferguson over for dinner. Best known for his work in the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family, Ferguson became a familiar face in millions of American homes with his role as Mitchell Pritchett. And it seems only right that Ferguson’s career would continue to embody the show's mission of fostering comfort, community, and conversation—both through his acting and his passion for food.
Ferguson has been no stranger to the food scene for some time now; he wrote the cookbook Food Between Friends with his close friend and recipe developer Julie Tanous in 2021. He's hosted the prestigious James Beard Awards twice. Most recently, Ferguson launched the podcast Dinner’s On Me, a project that celebrates one of Ferguson’s favorite aspects of food and dining out: the conversations.
Dinner’s On Me allows viewers to tune into a restaurant meal between Ferguson and a friend. With a guest list including Ferguson’s Modern Family costar Julie Bowen, Jesse Williams, Dan Levy, and more, Dinner’s On Me sees Ferguson and guests get candid as they indulge in great food.
“I think any time you take people out of an interview mode, where it's not, like, you sitting in two chairs across one another…you are going to open yourself up in different ways,” Ferguson told me. “And there's just something about sharing a meal and having a discussion about food that opens up other avenues.”
Ferguson recently chatted with me about some of his favorite LA and NYC restaurants, the key factors to setting a good vibe at a restaurant, and how the podcast led to some surprising dinners with old friends.
He Loves Hosting Friends For A Home-Cooked Meal
Ferguson loves to have friends over for dinner—not just because it allows him to try out new recipes, but especially because of the bonding experience that comes with it. “There's something we all love about a home-cooked meal because that's what many of us grew up on,” he says. “And there's something so warm about someone making a meal for you in their own house, sitting at their table, and conversations with glasses of wine.” Ferguson says he loves having groups of friends over, even if they don’t know each another. And he almost always includes his mother in the mix.
However, as relaxing as a night in might be, Ferguson also understands the unique comfort that only a night out can bring. “There's also something so great about sitting at a table and not having to do dishes afterwards,” he says. “I just feel like people are relaxed knowing that no one has to get up and tend to something in the kitchen."
He Was Often Surprised By His Podcast Guests
It’s easy to see how Ferguson’s emphasis on a stress-free and comforting dining experience would lend itself to more open conversations. And even Ferguson was surprised by the level of candidness that he reached with many of his guests.
“There are very few people that I've interviewed that I haven't known for a very long time, but there are so many things I still don't know about them,” he says. “It's interesting how those things open up during a meal.”
Ferguson says that he’s noticed one common theme throughout his many discussions on the podcast: “I sit down expecting to talk about one thing, and it always ends up being something completely different.” For instance, Ferguson says that he had a very frank discussion with Kristen Bell about mental health in the entertainment industry.
Ferguson and Bowen also discussed deep topics, like being a single woman in the industry, and wanting to reenter the dating field. He says that these were “conversations that I've had with her kind of privately, but where we went into way more depth than we ever have before.”
“For me, it's been the surprise of the direction that these conversations take,” he says. “That's been really kind of exciting.”
He Loves Finding The Best Restaurants In A Neighborhood
Whether scoping out the reliable spots for takeout after his Broadway performances in New York, or exploring mainstays of his Los Angeles neighborhood, Ferguson is always seeking out the best restaurants in an area.
When it comes to go-tos in New York, it’s Fish Cheeks for curry; ATLA and Ci Siamo for “unbelievable beans”; and Don Angie and Ci Siamo for Italian. As for Los Angeles, Ferguson says that “a lot of the places that I tend to go to are in my old neighborhood that I actually really miss.” Among his favorites are oyster bars like L&E Oyster and Found Oyster, along with Kismet, All Time, and Petit Trois.
As for key must-have qualities he looks for in a restaurant, Ferguson is all about the vibe—and he’s quick to specify that doesn’t always mean beautiful decor. “I've been to some places that have fluorescent lighting, the tables don't have tablecloths, there's not a lot of ambience, but they still have a really great vibe,” he says. Of course, one requisite a restaurant must have is good food. Ferguson says that he “hates a dead restaurant.” “It's always a little suspicious for me going to a restaurant and there's, like, no one there.”
Thanks to Dinner’s On Me, Ferguson has been able to use his restaurant-scouting skills to pick spots tailored to his guests’ interests and locales. “It's sort of tailored to each person,” Ferguson explains. “I mean, certainly for the podcast, it's a different set of needs that we need a space that's going to be somewhat private so we can record and not have a table chatting next to us.”
Of course, sometimes a guest's favorite cuisine play a hand in his choices as well. Like, for instance, with comedian Fred Armisen. “I knew from mutual friends that he loves sushi,” Ferguson says. So, he insisted on finding Armisen a sushi spot that was up to par and tracked down kodō, a new omakase restaurant in a converted firehouse that had just opened in downtown Los Angeles. “It's not only a beautiful building but it's food that he loves, and it's sort of elevated sushi, and also not too far away from where he lives,” Ferguson says. “So I love that those three elements came together.”2023-06-01T16:44:57Z dg43tfdfdgfd