You may know Zooey Deschanel best for her role as crafty and quirky LA-based teacher Jessica Day in New Girl, but the actress is taking on a very different role in Max‘s new food-conscious series, What Am I Eating? With Zooey Deschanel.
Debuting on May 23, the six-episode first season sees Deschanel team up with various correspondents and experts as they work to solve everyday food dilemmas by asking questions about what we eat. From supermarkets to kitchens, Deschanel is unlocking mysteries and sharing startling truths no one will want to miss on topics ranging from fats and greens to chocolate and grains.
Below, Deschanel opens up about the inspiration behind the series, the goal of sharing tips and tricks with viewers, and the lessons she’s enjoyed most from the experience.
What was it about this format and lessons that you were most excited to share with viewers?
Zooey Deschanel: I actually started doing a short form series called Your Food’s Roots six years ago, and we did three or four seasons of that with Facebook Watch and Meta. We had a great time and it was all kind of the same seed as this where we’re asking and answering questions about food and seeking out experts and going to the places where things were grown and going to the kitchens where things were being made. We had this wonderful opportunity with Max [to] make it a full-length TV show.
So, it was something that I felt really prepared to do because I had spent so long doing it before. Originally I started asking a lot of questions about my food when I was pregnant with my first child. I was just curious about what I was eating and I thought it was hard to find the answers. [So the idea] kind of came out of that and just having a lot of questions and wanting them answered.
The series also shows viewers better ways to get food as opposed to just better ways to eat. Was that also a goal for the episodes?
I hate to use the word “better” because yeah, sometimes it’s very subjective and what’s better for one person isn’t better for somebody else. But in terms of sustainability, there is a lot of information that is quite objective. So, yes, that’s very important to me. And I actually started two companies, out of these questions, I started Lettuce Grow which is vertical farming at home, and Merryfield which helps [make] sustainable brands more affordable for people. I didn’t like the idea that healthy eating was something that was a privilege. It’s like this elitist thing. I didn’t like that, I’m very anti-elitist. I think food democratization, sustainable eating, all these things are really important to me.
Was there anything you learned from working on these episodes?
Peanut oil is so great [for frying potatoes]. That was a great lesson for me. Chocolate discs melt better than chocolate chips, that’s a great takeaway. Using European style butter will improve your pastry crust, but you don’t need to splurge on it for your struesel topping. You know, little things like that.
Are these tips and tricks something you use at home?
I’m the type of person that if you say make lasagna, I’ll read like 20,000 lasagna recipes and then take away the best parts. You know, I’m always trying to hack a recipe.I definitely am at that type of cook. I like to try to look for the things that will make me have the best results. Getting the tips from the actual people who are making these things every day, that’s so valuable.
Was there any hands-on demonstration you enjoyed the most?
Well, it’s hard to say, it was really cool to have chef Tim Hollingsworth do the potatoes with me. And it was amazing to do the bread [at Tartine]. And I love the guys from Falling Fruit. Nicole Rucker from Fat + Flour, she makes incredible pies. These are people who are true experts showing me how to make things. It’s just an incredible privilege for me, and I get to share it with people.
These episodes are very informative. Considering their educational nature, do you think your New Girl character Jessica Day would show this series to her students?
It’s actually funny because I’m personally not very good at teaching anything. I don’t think. I am not an educator. Educators are the best. So I was honored to play one on TV. I definitely think so. On a rainy day, I think Jessica Day would use this as a teaching tool. It’s great for everybody. I can’t think of anybody who wouldn’t get something out of watching this show.
What Am I Eating? With Zooey Deschanel, Streaming now, Max