The Arts, Food, and All-Things-New York: An Interview with Brian Hoffman

By: Cyndi Amaya

Known for his popular New York-centered food blog, Eat This NY, Brian Hoffman has clearly made a name for himself in the NY food blog scene. Aside from being the tour guide for UrbanOyster's frequented Street Food Cart and Brewed in Brooklyn Tours, Brian is also a contributing writer for Midtown Lunch as well as an aspiring actor in his own right.

While some food writers are weary of giving suggestions on where to find the "best" anything for fear of backlash, Brian has tackled this task head on his own 100 Best List of where to find the "best" everything in New York City. Yet, Brian's list and his constant search on where to find NY classics like pizza, pastrami, and bagels aren't the only bit of madness behind his blog Eat This NY; his video web series, a true combination of his remarkable acting talents and obvious food enthusiasm, is the true stroke of genius behind it all.

I got to meet Brian Hoffman (who, to my pleasant surprise, turned out to be from the exact same small town in South Florida as I am) and got to ask him a bit about his blog and his big food plans. Here's what he had to say...

Tell me about yourself.

I grew up in South Florida, I always have been interested in theater.  I guess I was starved for attention.  I wasn't really starved for attention; I just could never get enough attention.  So I studied acting at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.  Really wanted to just be a theater actor and moved to NY and discovered how difficult that is.  And I was always told how difficult it is but...when I was little my Dad used to ask me how I was going to support myself and I said I'd eat at McDonald's and eat their dollar menus (laugh) but now that doesn't fly.

So, I've always put on plays, made little movies and stuff and always interested in other cuisines.  My family were pretty conservative eaters and I remember we used to go to Chinese restaurants; my parents thought Chinese food was okay, but sushi...I was always so interested in what that crazy stuff was but my mom said 'no'.  It wasn't as popular back then but I was always starved for food adventures and that is part of why I am so interested in trying new things, really seeking out interesting food in college and met people with different backgrounds and went to different restaurants. So I was always interested in food and acting, putting on a show and entertaining people.

When did you get the idea to start the blog?

I got the idea first to start a food show, which was part sitcom/part food show.  So that every episode had plot and more of a scripted plot then Anthony Bourdain's show or Good Eats which both have sort of skits to them.  But really where you followed characters around and you also get to know about other food in other cities.  So I had that idea and big dreams of being produced by the Food Network and talked to a friend who produces in L.A. who said 'great idea except you're a nobody'.  I'm just a person who likes food.  You got to start small, build a blog, build a following and credentials for yourself and then when you are ready, you have a whole background in it for years.  That's when I figured out I needed a blog, started the web series, and started to do it myself.  So I started with a real purpose.  I hooked up with Midtown Lunch because of the food cart stuff that I do in Midtown; they started talking to me and wanted me to write with them so I just evolved.

What other topics do you address in your blog?

It keeps expanding.  It goes from pizza, pastrami, ice cream, bagels, dumplings, and now beer.  So I keep going back to those six themes and then also for fun, 3 or 4 years ago, I wanted to eat all 100 of the top 100 dishes and I actually started doing it before I had a blog and I just decided to do it every year because it's a good way to discover specific dishes and discover new restaurants.  It's taken me to places in Queens, Brooklyn, and places I'd never go to.  So I use those as sort of a jumping off point.

Now, I have my own Top 100 list which intersects with the Time Out list but then it's my own discoveries.

What differentiates your list?

I've been doing this list for three years and I do notice similarities from list to list.  I feel like they are certain things have to fit their mold.  I don't know but based on my experience with the list, it just seems like that.  I've had some awesome stuff that they picked but they've also had some bad stuff, too.  I unfortunately do not have the option of going 3 times, but I didn't get that.  What has a wow factor for me; I don't listen to publicists.  I'm open to whatever works but it's my opinion of course.  With Time Out, it's lots of opinions from lots of people.

How did you come up with the idea to do the web series?

The passion came from conservatively eating during my childhood and wanted to be more adventurous.  I created the show with every episode putting me in a situation usually involving a girl that I'm trying to pick up and be a ladies' man with and through scenes the plot intertwines with the food.  So it's really a way to bring two passions of eating and acting together.  I'm really proud of the shows I've done because other shows get tiresome.  This show appeals to foodies and to those who are interested in things that are more interesting and provoking.  It's story telling.

What is your favorite episode?

All are different.  The pastrami episode is the script I'm most proud of.

Since that's the episode Brian's most proud of, we're featuring that same one here. Check out Brian Hoffman's Episode 2: Kosher Meat Market and to read more about Brian, check out his site here. 

For more interviews, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)