Broadway Actor. Cereal Lover.
Henry Gottfried is a Harlem-based actor originally from Nashville, TN. He currently works on the Tony Award nominated musical Waitress and is a Scorpio-Libra cusp. Henry sat down with Chroma Kitchen to talk plants, cereals, and nutrition on a Broadway actor's schedule.
Is it fair to say that you are vegetable-curious though you are not vegan? I've been vegetarian in chapters. I've been pescetarian in chapters. At this time in my life, I’m eating everything; no foods are categorically uninvited, but I’m definitely more than vegetable-curious. I’m vegetable enthusiastic.
When did you first start to pay attention to nutrition? Early ninth grade, I remember giving no consideration to what I was putting in my mouth whatsoever. This was the era of us eating cookie dough straight out of the tube, studying for exams. And then spring of ninth grade—which was around the same time that I came out too—I just became kind of self-conscious and body conscious (as two separate things—but at the same time). And so very suddenly, I became aware of what was on my plate.
How has your conception of what healthy food is changed since ninth grade? Specific to ninth grade, but not for very long after that, I was just kind of preoccupied with portion control, “dieting,” in the most general sense of less intake. These days I have absolutely no concern about the amount of food that I put in my body. If anything, I feel like I could always do with more good food in my body.
Have your tastes grown since then? Both luckily and due to certain parenting, I’ve always had a very open mind...a very open palate. I was never a picky eater. I’m really open to eating anything and everything. And I always really liked veggies. We always had good vegetables in the fridge and in what my mom served. Vegetables were always a big piece of it.
Are there any foods that you wish you didn't love (but that you do love)? It’s not really a food, but—protein bars. I have a sense that I could do better for myself. But the combination of being always hungry and really lazy means that protein bars are always an easy solution. So I end up eating more protein bars than I need to. There are other ways to get good, filling, sustaining snack food, but I’m lazy.
Before Waitress, you worked on the national tour of Pippin for eight months. Did that mean you were operating without a kitchen all that time? In brief, it was basically a new city every week, a new hotel room every week. We always had a hotel mini fridge (with the exception of one horrible city). Everything else was completely unreliable.
Did you end up eating out all the time or just eating ingredients from the grocery store? The latter. I’ve never been so consistent about what I ate than I was in those days: You go to the grocery store, and you know what you can fit in a hotel mini fridge, and you know what foods you will go through in a week. Fruits and veggies in the fridge, a lot of hummus—cheese not so much—but nuts and peanut butter, cereals...
Talk to me about cereal. As you know, I have a long romance with breakfast cereals. For years running now, my go-to has been Kashi Go-Lean. Period.
For a while, it was Kashi Go-Lean Crunch, which is also very satisfying. But Kashi Go-Lean has more of a punishing, rabbit-food, cardboard kind of vibe to it, which I really really like. It’s lightly sweet, and it’s filling. Ugh, I love Kashi Go-Lean.
What are your thoughts on midnight snacks? Wow, you know, it’s very apt that you should be asking that right now. On the Broadway show schedule, it can be hard to eat a full dinner before the show, so you’re gonna eat a dinner part two (or dinner in the first place) after the show. I never used to care much about when I ate.
And then recently my voice teacher told me that he thinks I suffer from some light acid re-flux—it takes a while for my voice to get going during the day. In the mornings I have less range, and my voice just gives me a harder time. It’s pretty standard; most people suffer from some amount of acid re-flux, but high high highest on the list of behaviors to avoid is eating before bed. So I’m not anti-midnight snack, but it has become a "no" for the sake of vocal health.
I know that you are an expert cranberry sauce confectioner. Can you talk more about that family Thanksgiving tradition? Confectioner meaning that I am an expert at making it? I am so flattered. It is the easiest thing to make. You just boil the cranberries, and sugar, and water together. As far as I see it, the longer you boil it the thicker it’s going to be and the better consistency. Cranberry sauce is very important in my house: my dad has a...you could call it an obsession with the Ocean Spray canned stuff. It is an absolute non negotiable.
So we always have the Ocean Spray, and for many years now we would also have the cranberry sauce that we would make—strained through an old school food mill so that it has got the nice smooth consistency. And then we would do a whole berry cranberry sauce, or a cranberry relish, or a raw one with horseradish. You can’t have too many cranberry sauces. And let me also say that I have enjoyed a few post-Thanksgiving meals of just cranberry sauce with a spoon.
What is the most important object in your kitchen? I would say a rubber spatula is the end-all-be-all kitchen tool. And we loved a rubber spatula in our house growing up. My mom has a collection, all different shapes and sizes: the kind that has a scoopy spoon, the kind that’s just flat for like scraping down a bowl, the little ones for getting inside a jar. So my mom has supplied me with a few of those. I feel like no matter what I end up cooking, I end up using a rubber spatula.
What do you miss most about childhood in your mom's kitchen as well as your mom's cooking? I miss cooking with my mom, and I always want to do it when I’m home. She seems to me to be this infinite wealth of practical cooking knowledge. She has an amazing cookbook library, and she knows some stuff. But it’s less about crazy techniques and more just that she has practical answers for pretty much every kitchen quandary.
It’s a totally relaxed oral tradition. Cooking with her seems like something from a bygone era. It’s not fussy. It’s always tasty, and it’s just a little bit low stakes. I love learning from her in the kitchen, because it feels like such a fundamental way for a parent and child to connect.
Are there any maxims or phrases that you live by (food related or otherwise)? This comes from my mother, which is fitting: "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."