If it’s the end of your life, you want a plate filled with your childhood favorites: hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza. It doesn’t even have to be the best; it just has to be what you remember having as a kid. For me, it would start with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. I would also have to have fried eggs after. With bacon. It’s the last meal, after all.
You have to have hot dogs — Nathan’s is my favorite. Maybe you want a great steak. If I was going to have a restaurant experience as my last meal, it might be Peter Luger. My favorite fried chicken is Howlin’ Ray’s. There are various degrees of hotness — I go for “medium plus.” Once I order “hot,” it’s just pain, and I don’t like just pain. I like the edge where you’re sweating and your nose is running, and you can hardly breathe and you’re crying, but you can’t stop eating because it’s so friggin’ delicious. The great places take you right to that edge.
If you ask anybody what their favorite pizza is, nine times out of ten, they’re going to tell you their neighborhood pizza place from when they were a kid. Mine was called New City Pizza, but the really special pizza was one town over. The place was called Nanuet Hotel Restaurant Pizza, and they did a thing where the crust went up on the sides as if they were making a tart.
The best hamburger is made by Nancy Silverton. It’s as if your mother made you a burger on the grill in your backyard — if your mother were a great chef. My mother was a fantastic, funny, brilliant person, but let’s say cooking was not her strong suit. But she made one thing well: matzo ball soup. The very last bite of anything on this earth, for me, should be that. Everyone should finish with something that Mom made. You’re going to die. Complete the circle.
I could just as easily abandon everything I’ve said and have a bowl of pasta on the Amalfi Coast and die that way. But that, to me, is so otherworldly and so not my life that it wouldn’t feel right being my last meal. If I could have a second-to-last meal, though, I’d visit all the great restaurants that I’ve gotten to go to in the world.
It’s not even the fancy stuff. There’s a herring sandwich in a Tel Aviv market — it’s in Somebody Feed Phil; the place is called Sherry Herring — that was so good that the whole crew went back two more times off-camera. We went to Chiang Mai and got a bowl of khao soi in a shack by the side of the road called Khao Soi Kad Gorm. I ate an entire bowl of chicken khao soi and an entire bowl of beef khao soi. I was absolutely in the zone. The history of food is people taking ingredients that nobody wants and through sheer imagination and inventiveness creating a dish that becomes a destination. It’s delicious by necessity.
Everybody Loves Craft Services
If I could have my family and the writers’ room from Everybody Loves Raymond sitting around the table, that would be fantastic. You build this kind of comradery through great food, and Everybody Loves Raymond had the best food of any show. I’m talking about a craft service table where deli was flown in from New York, and there were cinnamon rolls from Ann Sather in Chicago! If there’s just potato chips, you grab them and move on with your day. But if the cinnamon rolls from Chicago are there, you take them and turn to the person next to you and go, “Oh my God, did you try this?”
What says that you care about somebody more than good food (other than, you know, being nice to them and paying them a respectable wage)? You want people to care about the place where they work. You do that by treating them with love and kindness. And food is an amazing way to do that.