Why Is Benny Blanco Suddenly All Over Foodstagram?

The world-renowned music producer wrote an irreverent, unexpected cookbook — and it's good.

<p>HarperCollins Publishers</p>

HarperCollins Publishers

If your social media algorithm feeds you a lot of viral dishes and food influencers, then the odds that Benny Blanco has popped up in your feed over the past year are high.

For the unfamiliar, Blanco is the Virginia-born songwriter and producer responsible for a lot of the hit sounds you’ve likely heard on the radio post-2008. (Think “Moves Like Jagger,” “California Gurls,” and “Diamonds.”) More recently, his relationship with girlfriend Selena Gomez — of Only Murders in the Building fame — has pushed him even further into the public eye, but I first learned who Benny Blanco was last April, when he posted a video of himself with Pierce Abernathy, one of my favorite digital food creators, cooking crispy potatoes and crab dip.

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Since then, Blanco has been regularly making video content with some of the internet’s biggest food personalities, such as Los Angeles-based “sandwich king” Owen Han, Always Hungry! author Laurent Dagenais, and Half Baked Harvest’s Tieghan Gerard, to promote his new cookbook, Open Wide: A Cookbook for Friends. Blanco is irreverent, larger than life, and has a sense of humor that would undoubtedly hit home with a teenage stoner — and it turns out all of these traits make for a really fun cookbook.

Whether you already knew who Benny Blanco was from his musical work or not, this book will teach you something new about him — like the fact that he and his gardener Scott grow so much fresh produce they’re able to donate ingredients to food desserts in Los Angeles.

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To start, you might be surprised to learn that he’s even interested in food culture or an avid home cook. Blanco himself seems astonished that they let him publish this book, considering that it’s littered with statements like, “I don’t know why they let me make a cookbook.” And while I was certainly skeptical at first, the story behind his love for cooking actually makes sense: He grew up with a single, working mom, so he was often left to his own devices for dinner. As he entered his teenage years and started smoking weed with friends, they’d get creative in their quest to satisfy the munchies, crafting “the most elaborate sandwiches [their] prepubescent minds could fathom.”

<p>JOHNNY MILLER</p> Open Wide's 'Ultimate Breakfast' menu includes chicken and waffles and a simple melon salad.


Open Wide's 'Ultimate Breakfast' menu includes chicken and waffles and a simple melon salad.

Today, his passion for food largely revolves around dinner parties, which isn’t surprising given the fact that he’s an entertainer by trade. His cookbook follows suit and is divided into different “menus,” or thematically arranged sections of recipes intended to go together. These range from “it’s a pool party,” which starts with Chips and Caviar and ends with Key Lime Pie, to “kibitz and complain,” complete with his mom’s Kugel recipe and Cabbage Rolls.

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Benny Blanco knows he’s not a professional chef, and he leans into that. His expertise lies in things like hosting, satisfying your snack cravings when smoking, or telling wild stories from his life in the music industry. He happens to be excellent at all of these things: his recommendation for affordable glassware that looks good is spot on (spoiler alert: it’s a set of Duralex Picardie glass tumblers), the book’s three-ingredient queso recipe has my Texan-certified seal of approval for any emergency munchies needs, and his recounting of a time when Lil Dicky tried to hit on Kendall Jenner at a pool party made me laugh out loud. These contribute to the refreshingly un-precious approach towards food that Open Wide takes.

To balance the scales, Blanco turns to talented, well-known chefs for the recipes that he knows they know best. Cookbook author and recipe developer Jess Damuck co-wrote the book with him, and there are recipes from people like Mi Cocina author Rick Martinez, Philadelphia chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov, and Shabbat author Adeena Sussman to name just a few. 

It’s also clear that the 36-year-old music producer himself can (and does) cook quite often. When asked which of the book’s recipes he’s most likely to make as a midnight snack, he answered with no hesitation: “I know this sounds crazy, but when I get back from a drunken night I’ve been known to make the chicken cutlet with hot peppers, honey, and parm,” which sounds both delicious and admittedly more ambitious than anything I’d attempt in the middle of the night.

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Thanks to a combination of chef-powered techniques and Blanco’s internet-friendly style, the recipes in this cookbook are the kind of dishes you’ll turn towards when you want something comforting and decadent. There are many great hosting tips — like investing in a set of cloth napkins being absolutely worth it and a QR code for the perfect dinner party playlist — and if you made one of the entire menus your friends would undoubtedly be impressed, but there are also a good number of comforting dishes that will make you think, “Yeah I need that” — like the super-cheesy beans, Salted Caramel Crispy Rice Treats, or Best Potatoes Ever, which apparently Selena loves.

There are also plenty of dishes appropriate for the amateur home cook: Strawberries and Cream is exactly what it sounds like, and it's a good exercise in making whipped cream at home if you haven’t before. There’s even an “Easiest Meals You Can Make Anywhere” section.

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If you’re uncomfortable with statements such as, “Slicing an onion is like taking a Xanax to me,” or frequent references to weed and getting laid, then this might not be the book for you. But if you’re on board with a cheeky approach to food that’s not always concerned with the “proper” ways to talk about things, and sometimes borders on politically incorrect (the chirashi recipe is alternately titled “sushi bathtub bowl”) then I recommend snagging a copy.

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