Food & Drink

Songwriter Benny Blanco on food compliments from Yotam Ottolenghi and ‘that’ deep-fried Rolex recipe

Producer and songwriter Benny Blanco talks to Prudence Wade about falling in love with food and getting complimented by chef Yotam Ottolenghi.

Songwriter Benny Blanco has released his first cookbook
Benny Blanco Songwriter Benny Blanco has released his first cookbook (JOHNNY_MILLER)

If you were ever curious about how to deep-fry a Rolex, you’re in luck – that specific recipe is in songwriter Benny Blanco’s debut cookbook.

Most of the ingredients you’ll have in your cupboard already – breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, Parmesan, eggs… oh, and a $16,500 (£13,000) watch, preferably gifted to you by Ed Sheeran.

“Man, this one really gets everyone,” jokes Blanco, who’s had a hand in some of the biggest hits on the radio, from artists like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Rihanna, The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran – to name a few.

He’s also previously collaborated with popstar Selena Gomez – the two debuted their romantic relationship on social media last year, and have been hitting the headlines ever since. Blanco recently went on the talk show circuit to promote his new cookbook and opened up about his relationship on the way – talking on The Howard Stern Show about his plans for their upcoming first anniversary.

But back to the Rolex – the stunt came along randomly, when Blanco was cooking with a friend and she made the suggestion.

“We literally wound up frying a Rolex that Ed Sheeran gave me and it still works to this day perfectly. Honestly, I should be the spokesman for Rolex,” LA-based Blanco, 36, says.

While he might best known for penning songs for some of the biggest names in music, among his friends, Blanco is the go-to guy for dinner parties and recipes.

“My friends would be like, ‘OK, I have a date in 30 minutes – what do I cook?’ Or they’ll be like, ‘OK, it’s Thanksgiving today – can you give me every recipe?’ It’s crazy,” Blanco says.

No longer will he have to text his friends last-minute recipes, because he’s written a cookbook full of his favourite dishes, called Open Wide. Instead, Blanco says: “I just send them an Amazon link.”

Getting the opportunity to publish a cookbook feels like “my most surreal, deepest, wildest dream came to fruition”, Blanco says, and other than a deep-fried watch, the other recipes are actually edible – ranging from lamb shawarma and latkes to chicken cutlets and lobster rolls.

For Blanco, his love affair with cooking started when he was 13 years old with a George Foreman Grill, something he calls “the Holy Grail”.

“One of my friends had one, and we would all go home after school and we’d gather around this man’s little grill and make these elaborate sandwiches and wraps – they’d be so cheesy – and quesadillas.

“I remember making one for a stoned group of my friends, and I remember cutting one open and giving it to my friend and looking at his face as he gasped and ooh’d and aah’d. When that happened I was like, wow, I have to replicate this feeling.

“It was a feeling of giving someone an experience and I was so drawn to it. It’s the same way in music, too – it just hit me, and I was like, I have to do something like this for the rest of my life.”


Nowadays, Blanco appreciates the mental health benefits of cooking.

“As a person who can’t sit still and my neuroses overtake me, it’s always been in my back pocket,” he says.

“I urge every person out there to grab an onion and cut it, it’s like Xanax.”

He’s even taken his obsession with food a step further by growing his own produce at home in Los Angeles.

“I’ve always been pretty crazy about saving food and making sure I use every last little bit of food,” he explains.

“But when you grow something from the start of it to the end, you don’t want to throw away a f****** stem, because you saw this thing that is your little child make its way to a big carrot. You’re like, I have to eat this entire carrot and I’m not leaving one speck of it.”

Not that he eats all of his produce himself, but Blanco teams up with US charity Support+Feed, which was established by singer Billie Eilish’s mother, Maggie Baird.

“We give the majority of the vegetables to food deserts in the LA area where they can’t afford or don’t have access to healthy, clean vegetables,” Blanco says.

“We’ve been able to do such amazing things with Support+Feed… It’s such a gratifying thing, because I’m getting to grow vegetables for myself, and I’m also given the opportunity to create these amazing experiences for families who are less fortunate.”

Ultimately, Blanco is constantly chasing that initial reaction to his food: “When someone tilts their head back and goes ‘mmmm’.”

But his platform and the circles he runs in mean some higher-profile people are trying his dishes.

“I was with the musician Jessie Ware, she’s a very good friend of mine, and we were cooking,” Blanco remembers.

“She said, ‘I have a friend coming round for brunch’. We’re all cooking, and she said: ‘Yeah, it’s Ottolenghi’. And I was like, oh my God.

“Everyone made these huge, big plates of things, and I had no idea – I was just making a salad. When we were all eating, Ottolenghi – Yotam, he was like, ‘Oh, this salad’s delicious, who made this salad?'”

Ottolenghi ended up asking Blanco for the recipe – which was a salad made with croutons from scratch that are “buttery, white winey and cheesy – they’re delicious”.

The whole experience was “the highlight of my life”, Blanco says. “I actually died.”

Open Wide: A Cookbook For Friends by Benny Blanco is published by Dey Street Books, priced £25. Photography by Johnny Miller. Available now.