To celebrate the YouTube star’s first book, we met up to talk about the writing process, being famous-ish and the best pizza in New York. Most readers probably know Hannah from her immensely popular Internet show, My Drunk Kitchen, which she launched, somewhat accidentally, in 2011. Since then, she’s collaborated with folks like John Green, met President Obama, raised almost a quarter of a million dollars to travel around the globe to host charity meet-ups for her fans, co-created a feature-length film and now, at last, has written a cookbook. Her special launch-day show featured some other chef named Jamie Oliver, and I'm exhausted just listening to her. But even when she’s jetlagged, Hannah’s generosity, humor and enthusiasm for her community of Hartosexuals brim over.
On the book’s publication day, Hannah, her publicist Megan Swartz, Time Out New York’s Associate Shopping & Style Editor Jennifer Picht and I gathered in a Hell’s Kitchen café, where we ordered a round of almond croissants and chatted about My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking & Going with Your Gut.
TG: So this is the real pub day of the book.
HH: It’s a good day. I’m very happy. I’m also really jetlagged, I’m really punchy right now. You know that feeling where you’re tired so you feel like you’re missing frames? I posted a video with Jamie Oliver today so I was up with London on their time, so it’s like California time to New York time, up in London time.
JP: And then you’re on tour.
TG: For how long?
HH: [gestures longingly toward the distance] That’s me reaching for home in September. I’m going to be in Boston Friday. It goes Boston, D.C., Austin, San Francisco, L.A. I’m doing the Housing Works event on August 13. Housing Works actually holds a place near and dear to me; they were the first New York place I ever did any event. At all. And this was, like, three summers ago. It was September-ish of 2011. When I did that event, it was just a meet-and-greet, and I was like, “Maybe one day I’ll have a book, but if you guys buy books here today, I’ll sign them.” So people were going around getting pulp novels, and I was signing them, “This looks like a great pick!” It’s full circle, it’s really crazy.
TG: What’s the event going to be like?
MS: It’s a conversation with Rosie Schaap, the “Drink” columnist at The New York Times.
HH: You’ll see a very different Hannah. Just give me one good night of sleep. And I’ll be like “Hey, everybody.” Very smooth. “I’m hydrated, ha ha.”
MS: WORD Bookstore will be selling copies of the book, and we donated a box of books to Housing Works, too.
HH: So that’s going to be really fun. I love talking. I do it for a living. I do a lot of different things for a living.
TG: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of putting the book together? It’s such a different medium than the videos, but it’s still so, so hilarious.
HH: Oh, stop. It’s just so funny because I feel like it’s been so long. I guess I signed with HarperCollins in January 2013. I thought it’d take about a year to do a book. I’ve always wanted to write a book, and the very first iteration, when My Drunk Kitchen started, was much more like a memoir of that. So I guess in that sense it has been about four years, a bunch of different styles. And a big shout-out to my editor Brittany, my photographer friend Robin who did every picture and helped me clean up. Because all the pictures are food and prop-styled by me, and Robin photographed them. It was three days of shooting and then a lot of mess. Big ups to Robin and to Brittany, who has the heart of an angel. I was obviously freaking out because I had all this other stuff going on. And then Shannon is the book designer, who I just think nailed it. I mean, I love it.
But to answer your question of the writing process…Really hard. Writing a book is really hard. Especially when you’re going on tour for two-and-a-half months and then shooting a movie and then going on another tour and then going to Australia. Yeah, so that was also really hard. And just poor planning, you know? The book was the thing that I was like, “Okay, well, 2013’s set.” And then I was going to go on tour and then come home and not do anything else. But then all this other stuff came up. So I just tried to force myself to do. What’s the quote? Writing is easy, all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and wait for your sweat to turn to blood?
TG: Yeah, Hemingway. There’s nothing to writing, you just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
HH: Yeah, exactly. It was great in that way. The bleeding part. I think it was just good, though, because it also reframes the way I work on all projects. Because getting started is the hardest part, but once you build your “getting started” muscle, then you go. I think that’s true of any form of writing. Even writing long emails.
JP: Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
HH: That’s like asking, “Who’s your favorite cousin?” I’m equally ambivalent to all of them. [Flips through book] Pizza Pie Chart is really good. It basically talks about how your friends might have friends that you don’t like, but that doesn’t make them not your friends. But you can totally weed them out by offering them pizza in the shape of a pie chart and seeing which piece they pick. And then they pick the bell peppers, like [shakes head]. Also bell peppers effectively ruin the rest of the pizza anyway. Naan of Your Business is also good. Very self-indulgent of me. I basically talk about how weird it is to be famous-ish. Especially when you don’t have the same kind of…Traditional celebrities make a shit-ton of money. Internet celebrities don’t, but we sure do have a lot of stalkers. I love this quote [reads from book]: “I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. My mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.” Shirley Temple.
I don’t know. I really love the book. It’s hard to say. The way it’s structured, it’s in four parts. The first part’s Kitchen Basics, so it’s talking about the fundamentals of you and what you can do with the fundamentals. The second part is Adultolescence, so it’s like your amateur adulthood, which is basically 21 to…A solid 60-years-old. And then part three is about love, sex and dating, gotta get that in there. And part four is Family and the Holidays. I though, this is the hardest one to write. Let’s make it two things.
JP: What did it feel like, getting the finished copies of the book?
HH: Honestly, I did journalism in high school, that was my background; I did the newspaper and the yearbook and stuff. So I thought for sure I’d get choked up or cry when I had the book, but I actually got choked up when I got the proofs. When I got the first pass of proofs, even seeing the edges of proof paper again. Something about it took me back to being 14 and being a journalism kid in high school and reading books all the time, and my life is so different now. That was the real, “Oh, shit. I’m that person.” It dusted off a memory.
TG: Like Proust.
HH: Like Proust!
MS: You’re like the drunk, online Proust.
TG: Is there anything you really want to hit up while you’re back in New York?
HH: Kesté! Have you ever been to Kesté? It’s really good.
MS: We’re going to Roberta’s after this.
HH: Oh yeah, Roberta’s has pizza, too?
MS: I think Roberta’s is better.
HH: No! The gauntlet has been thrown. Are you serious? But at Kesté, have you had the squash, smoked mozzarella pizza? That’s my favorite thing in maybe the entire universe.
MS: The names of the pizzas at Roberta’s are also puns. They have the Cheesus Christ.
HH: Oh, shut up. Let’s all go.
On that note, here’s the best pizza recipe in the world:
Photograph: Robin Roemer
Pizza Cake, from My Drunk Kitchen
“You’re simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I’ve ever met!” —Tina Turner
Being a host means impressing people…and this is seriously like the best.
Doesn’t even matter, because you’re about to eat a slice of heaven.
4 or 5 or 10 of your favorite kinds of pizza
Bake those pizzas. Layer those pizzas. Slice and serve the cake. Accept applause for your ingenuity. Careful, there might be some tears shed.