Jesse Tyler Ferguson: ‘If I Wasn’t an Actor, I’d Put Myself Through Culinary School’

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Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Photo: Getty Images)

Jesse Tyler Ferguson — best known as Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family — has a ton of different interests. He loves and has adopted shelter dogs, he runs a bow tie company — Tie the Knot — that raises funds for marriage equality, and now he’s a bona fide foodie.

“I think if I wasn’t an actor, I’d put myself through culinary school,” Ferguson says while chatting with Yahoo Celebrity. “In L.A., I have a nice chef’s kitchen — I bought my home from a woman who was a chef, so the kitchen is amazing and it encouraged me to be more ambitious. I’m a collector of cookbooks; I’m always trying recipes or organizing dinner parties. I’m a fan of people who cook well. I admire them, so I try to follow in their footsteps in a small way.”

But heartburn, which developed in Ferguson’s early 30s, almost derailed his passionate pursuit of food. In teaming up with Pepcid for the Tastemakers Celebrating Local Eats program, the 40-year-old actor looks to bring hope to others who suffer from heartburn, introducing them to fabulous food around the country while letting them know that they don’t have to let heartburn stop them from enjoying the food they love the most.

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Ferguson digs into a pan of hatch green chile eggs with friends. (Photo: Instagram)

Yahoo Celebrity: Tell us about the Pepcid Tastemakers Celebrating Local Eats program. What’s it all about and how did you get involved?
Jesse Tyler Ferguson: Well, it’s a great program and one that I was honored to be asked to do. The good people at Pepcid got wind that I’m a foodie. I love eating out, I love cooking, I love enjoying the food I want to enjoy, but I also realized in my early to mid-30s that I was going to suffer from heartburn for the rest of my life. I was raised in New Mexico, so I love spicy food. I lived in New York for 10 to 12 years before I moved to L.A., both of which are a melting pot of international cuisine. I knew I had to take care of my heartburn unless I wanted to suffer through eating or not allow myself the food I love. I love celebrating the local food I enjoy without heartburn, and I didn’t want to alter my food or edit what I eat because of it. So the Tastemakers Celebrating Local Eats program is a fantastic way to celebrate restaurants all across the U.S. — [knowing] I can have these foods without the discomfort.

And now you’re quite a foodie. How has your relationship with food evolved into what it is now, which sounds to be a bit of a passion for you?
I’ve been a fan of the culinary world for a long time. I think if I wasn’t an actor, I’d put myself through culinary school. In L.A., I have a nice chef’s kitchen — I bought my home from a woman who was a chef, so the kitchen is amazing and it encouraged me to be more ambitious. I’m a collector of cookbooks, I’m always trying recipes or organizing dinner parties. I’m a fan of people who cook well. I admire them, so I try to follow in their footsteps in a small way. And I’m an investor in a restaurant in L.A. called Terrine, which does well. Food was really a passion that blossomed in my 30s.

Ferguson and his friend Julie love to experiment in the kitchen. (Photo: Instagram)

Can you share some cooking tips and recipes with us?
Well, I have a food blog, which is really exciting. I just started it on my website at JesseTylerFerguson.com. I like to incorporate all different kinds of foods I love into recipes. A recent one I love is the hatch green chile breakfast with egg and chorizo — it’s a really delicious hash. There’s a stuffed branzino that I really like. … It’s also posted on my food blog. I find a lot of inspiration from cookbooks. I cook from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook a lot, and Padma Lakshmi’s. When it comes to recipes, I make lots of repeat offenders, but I aim to broaden my palate and try to cook new things often.

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Ferguson was excited to try out Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook. (Photo: Instagram)

What about some restaurant recommendations?
I tend to find the restaurants I go to from blogs or through friends of friends. My favorite new restaurant is in New York — there’s a place called Bruno Pizza that’s really delicious. There’s a really wonderful sushi place off Union Square called 15 East that I love. In L.A., Terrine, of course. It’s really fantastic. Son of a Gun is one of my favorites in L.A. One of my passions is to find new places and try new things, so I tend to do that by checking out other food blogs like Tasting Table and Eater. They’re really great resources.

What are your favorite comfort foods?
I love Mexican food, so green chile chicken enchiladas are a go-to that I love. I like really cheesy pizza, and I love Indian food. Lamb vindaloo is one of my favorite dishes.

Do you have a sweet tooth?
I do!

How do you satisfy it?
I tend to stay away from sweets because I’ll eat the whole thing. But when I do allow myself to have some, I try to share it with the table. I never order my own — I keep it at bay by ordering one dessert to share with five people and five spoons.

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Ferguson promises nonstop laughs in Fully Committed. (Photo: Instagram)

Your Broadway show is even about food! Tell us more about Fully Committed.
It’s a one-man play. I play a reservationist named Sam who works at an upscale restaurant in New York City. And I also play all the people calling in to secure a table, I play the staff, the hostess, the chef. It’s a fun play. It definitely plays with the culinary world and sends up the food culture, and then the audience gets to watch one man play 40 characters. It’s a fun tour de force to watch.

How have you been enjoying playing to Mitchell’s challenges — particularly his career challenges — in Season 7 of Modern Family?
It’s been really fun! The writers have been giving me great stuff to play with. One of my favorite episodes of the whole series was when they paired me up with Ty Burrell to spend an entire episode stoned off a gummy bear. Working with Ty is always great, but it’s also been fun to play outside of the box Mitchell is in. He’s thought of as being so straight-laced and very tight, so it’s been fun to spread my wings and show another side of him.

Ferguson and co-star Ty Burrell on the set of Modern Family. (Photo: Instagram)

Any insights on what might be in store for Mitchell in Season 8?
I really have no idea. We’re just now going to talk about table reads for Season 8, so I should know in a few months.

Last question: What are you going to have for dinner tonight?
I try to eat light before I do my Broadway show. I’ve had spicy food before the show, and then I’ve had heartburn pop up a half hour before the show. So I’m trying to not have food until later in the evening. But I’ve been going to this place called Upland and sitting at the bar to have a pasta dinner at 10:30 at night after the show. Doing this play is like running a marathon, so I allow myself to have some carbs!