TikTok Star Eitan Bernath Wants To Encourage People To Have Fun In The Kitchen - Exclusive Interview

If Eitan Bernath were to walk a red carpet, he might do it in Gucci, like he did when he met President Biden. That's how he rolls. Bernath is just as likely to collab with culinary legends like Marcus Samuelsson as he is to cook with Hollywood heavyweights like Drew Barrymore and Lilly Singh, as he is to make Indian food for Bill Gates. 

He does find an inordinate amount of joy in designer fashion. But Bernath isn't channeling Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada." He's too relatable for that. Meet the guy who soaks the floor having dance parties while doing dishes and who replicates Kylie Jenner's ramen recipe with such zeal that you'll want to, too. Yes, he's the principal culinary contributor of "The Drew Barrymore Show." Yup, he's recently started taking classes at Columbia. He's also got a partnership brewing with Bill Gates, a social media empire reaching over 8 million followers, and — did we forget to mention? — a new cookbook, "Eitan Eats the World." 

Behind it all, however, is a deceptively simple idea. "What I love to do is get people excited about food [and] inspire people to be in the kitchen and have fun in the kitchen," Bernath told Tasting Table in this exclusive interview. Stay tuned for life stories, recipe tips, and hot takes on the latest social culinary trends. 

Eitan Bernath hangs out with Drew Barrymore's family

Drew Barrymore commented on an Instagram post, suggesting you might be giving classes to her kids. Confirm or deny!

I think she was joking. Not a class, but I'm hanging out with her after this, and we're going to cook with the kids. I met her daughters, Frankie and Olive, on set last time I filmed the show, because the D'Amelios were there. I also met them that day. Drew's daughters wanted to meet them, so they were on set, and they're the cutest, most ... They're [as] incredible personalities as Drew. They're adorable.

Are they young cooks?

They definitely like to cook, Drew's told me. I probably talked [to] them on set [for about] half an hour or so. We were hanging out, and they know a lot of food. We were talking, "Yeah, I love steak with peppercorn sauce." I was like, "How do know that?" They're very knowledgeable about food.

Eitan Bernath reveals his top dorm cooking tip

Congratulations on starting Columbia. What's that been like on campus?

I'm taking one class at Columbia this year, a non-fiction writing class, and I'm really loving it. I'm in a special program called General Studies, so I'm able to basically go [at] whatever pace you need to. ... Education is really important to me. Both my parents work in education, and I like ... challenging myself mentally. ... People always think that when you work in entertainment, you don't need to use your brain. I run a company. ... Obviously, I have people help me, but I pay salaries every month. I have healthcare. That's a lot of things, a lot of math you always have to do. ...

I'm really enjoying it being on campus. ... It's been really fun to meet fans on campus and fun when people say hi and I get to meet fans that are there.

What is your top dorm cooking tip?

One of my top dorm cooking tips is you can do quite a lot with one of those ... whether it's a George Foreman grill or ... a waffle maker. You can cook eggs in it; you could make hash browns in it ... You really can be versatile. The waffle machine can't just make waffles. ... You can make hash browns; you could make eggs; you could even cook some veggies in there. ... It's a uniquely shaped heating element. If it's food that needs to be heated, it can be there. I have even made a burger in it. It's unconventional, but if you're a college kid and might not have the budget to buy more than one thing ... 

Eitan Bernath visited the White House

Last December, you met President Biden ... in a Gucci blazer and Jimmy Choo shoes, no less! Take us back to that moment.

I originally was in D.C. the day before that. ... Then Jill — [every year,] the first lady does holiday decorations. The White House team invited me and a handful of other creators to ... get a first look. ... While I was there, my contact ... introduced me to one of Jill's aides. ... I was talking to someone [while] wearing my Jewish star necklace. It came up that I was Jewish, and I made a joke, [saying,] "If you guys ever throw a Hanukkah event, I'd love to come." He looked at me and he's like, "We're doing one tomorrow. Do you want to come?" I laughed, and he is like, "No, I'm serious. I'll talk to Jill. I'm sure she would love to have you there."

I flew into D.C. the night before this creator event. The event was in the morning, and after lunch, I flew back to New York from D.C. because I had a shoot. The next morning, I was still waiting to find out, because even when you're invited, it takes a while to get cleared by Secret Service. They'd probably like to stalk you for hours, to watch you. ...

I got the formal invite from the White House, inviting me on behalf of the president, vice president, and their spouses. Actually, while I was in the middle of the shoot, I found out that I was named one of Forbes' 30 under 30. It was an absolutely absurd day. I did not process the day until a month later. I found that out, I had 20 seconds to process that, and then I was rushed to the airport to go to D.C.

What Eitan Bernath said to President Biden

What did you talk about with the president? 

I was actually the only non-politician or rabbi that was at the Hanukkah event. It was very small [and] intimate. It was usually for just Jewish politicians in Congress and rabbis that are close to the families of the four principles. I got there, and I was the youngest person in the room. It was magnificent ... walking in, wearing a Jewish star, and hearing Jewish music being played by the White House's orchestra.

[In] 2021, the Anti-Defamation League reported a humongous spike in anti-Semitic instance[s] in the United States. At the end of [a] year where there was so much anti-Semitism in the country ... to be in the White House, loud and proud Jewish, celebrating this holiday that I've celebrated my whole life with the president and vice president and first lady and second gentleman, it was very emotional. I was kind of crying in my seat, but behind my mask. ... I felt like I was beaming with pride. 

At the end of the event, Jill was pretty quickly escorted out. I didn't get to meet her, but the president and vice president were saying hello to people. I went through the crowd and was able to say hi to both of them. I spoke to them briefly. My grandfather passed away from COVID in March 2020, and meeting them was very impactful for me. I said to both of them, "Thank you for believing the science and caring about people affected by COVID."

For a while, it felt like people of power did not. ... I told [Biden] about my grandfather. It was brief ... but [I got] to have that moment with them and be like, "Thank you for caring." I try to use my platforms to educate people about [COVID-19] and try to get people to care. To thank them was really incredible. 

Eitan Bernath on shooting behind the scenes with Bill Gates

On your book tour, you had the chance to double-promote your book with Bill Gates, who had a book about COVID coming out. What was going on behind the scenes?

It was an incredible opportunity. Actually, his team reached out to us to do that, which was mind-blowing. I remember I [thought], "Is this a spam email?" Our books were coming out on the same day, which is a great coincidence. ... He's one of the most historic people, probably, in the modern era. I was so honored to do the video with him. We filmed it out in Palm Springs, and it was incredible.

They moved efficiently. They had a huge camera crew. Bill was in the room and out of the room in 20, 25 minutes. ... Actually, we've been continuing the partnership. Nothing's been announced yet, but we're doing a very big partnership again that'll probably launch in early 2023. ... A lot of the work that [Bill Gates] does include[s] women's empowerment [and] education ... I've been really excited to partner with them and keep figuring out ways to use my platform, his platform, and his resources to be able to amplify and add to the education. Knowledge is power. The more people that know about something important, the more people will care about making change.

Did he give you any food feedback?

He loved it, actually. I was told that he asked his team to bring the food back to his house.

Can you give us more details as to what the partnership might entail?

It's going to be more of a video series. ... Some are going to involve him. Some are going to involve the foundation and work they do. There's some travel involved, and I can't go too much into it, but it's a larger kind of partnership of values ... 

Why you should use mayo instead of butter on grilled cheese

Your cookbook centers on comfort foods from around the world. Naturally, you've included grilled cheese. Make your case for mayo being better than butter on it!

It's easily spreadable. ... When you're making grilled cheese or you're toasting bread like that in the pan, in my opinion, it is always better to have your fat on the bread rather than on the pan.

I always find that having your fat on what you're searing is better. Even if I'm cooking chicken, I find, [that way,] you oil your food and your pan ... Plus, [spreading it] on the slice of bread [gives you] way more even browning. That's the first part. [Also,] it tastes really great. All mayo is [is] egg yolks and fat. [That] also give[s] you richness, and the oil is flavorful. ... Obviously, butter's also delicious. ... [But mayo is] very easy to spread. You don't have to wait until it softens or anything like that. You just pop it out of the fridge, spread it, [and] bam, delicious grilled cheese.

The most useful kitchen gift Eitan Bernath has ever gotten

You write that you grew up getting gifts for the kitchen. What's the most useful kitchen gift you've ever received?

That's a great question. Probably a good chef's knife. ... People often buy a lot of knives in those big sets that are lower quality. It's worth investing a bit more money in one really nice knife — a good seven- to nine-inch, depending on how big your hands are, chef's knife that's sharp. Sharper knives are way safer than dull knives. [You want] one that's sharp, is nicely weighted, is comfortable in your hand. You will get way better results and you can do a lot with it. ... If there's something you're going to skimp out on in your kitchen, I wouldn't do the knife.

Talk brands or material specs we should be looking at.

I love Damascus steel, the Japanese knives. Shun knives ... Wusthof is really great. I know a lot of people love Global. Any one of those higher-tier brands that feels good in your hand. Some people love Global; they're super light, so they're not heavy in your hand. Personally, I like a bit of a heavier knife than Global. ... You're looking at [a] price range [of] 100 to 200 — any one in those brackets but that feels good in your hands. Maybe you like the wood of Japanese knives, like the Shun knife or Miyabi knife. Maybe the steel, like the Wusthof, or maybe the lighter feel of a Global knife. ... If you are able to go to a cooking equipment store that has them on display, try them. If not, maybe buy them from Amazon [and] return whichever one you don't like. That's what I recommend.

Why you should use a ruler in the kitchen

You're also big on using rulers in the kitchen, in no large part because your mom was a math teacher. Talk us through the top three ways you use a ruler in the kitchen.

In my kitchen, I have it right next to the stovetop ... where I usually do prep. ... I definitely think when you're learning how to cook, let's say you read a recipe and it says, "Do a medium dice." You're like, "What does that mean?" You can Google it and see, " ... Great, it's X amount of inches." And then you can get your ruler and measure it out.

You're not going to use it every time. I do not recommend [it] for every time you want to chop an onion. ... If your recipe says Julienne, what does that mean? How long is that? How thin is that? Google it. Use your ruler ... when you're starting out and learning, and then eventually, by doing that, your brain just knows.

In baking, I think it's important. [If] you're making cinnamon buns — in the book, I have a great cinnamon bun recipe — you want to roll it out to about 12 inches by 24 inches, give or take a few inches. You have got to measure that. If you don't, you're going to not have enough. They're going to be too wide, [or] they won't be long enough. Baking is a really great application for using them. Then random, more specialized ... Maybe you're making some type of dessert that's on a cookie sheet that you need to space out perfectly so they don't rise and spread and mash into each other. The beauty of having it is you never know when you're going to need it, but having it there [only] costs a few dollars. It's very small [and] easy to store. It's so valuable.

Eitan Bernath's ideal butter board

People might be surprised to learn about your aversion to cold cheese. Given that, are butter boards a good alternative to your standard charcuterie board? 

I haven't actually tried, and because of my schedule, I occasionally miss trends because ... I can't film a video quick enough. I think I missed the boat with it, so I didn't do a video. I'm personally into it. I love butter. I love butter on bread. I think it's fun. I think people that are hating on it are ... No one's saying a butter board's going to replace a cheeseboard. But I'm like, "Have fun with it." People have been going with it. Also, if someone's enjoying it, great for them.

If you were going to make your own butter board, what would it be? 

I've been thinking about that. I have a culinary expert on my team named Olivia, who's my partner in crime in the kitchen, and every week we do concept sessions. We had such a good idea. I see a classy, very Jewishy one — a bagel instead of bread, with lox and everything-bagel seasoning and caramelized onions. Oh my god. ... I like that one. I think that's fun.

The food trend that Eitan Bernath took too far

What was the latest trend in the food world that went too far?

I'm very much [of] the opinion, "You do you in the kitchen." ... I test out a lot of crazy things. Whenever people are like, "That's disrespectful" ... As long as you're not being disrespectful to a certain culture and how they prepare food ... If you're just having fun in your own personal space with food, I'm very much like, "You do you."

One that went a little too far, and if I'm going to be honest, I did it ... was the baked feta pasta trend. I tested it out on my Facebook, this baked pasta one that had grapes in it. ... I didn't think the video would go viral. It was a baked feta pasta dessert version with strawberries and stuff in it. They were good-ish. I probably went a little too far, but at the same time, if it makes someone happy, love it for them, [don't] love it for me.

Some of the more consistently popular cooking trends on TikTok are deep frying everything and ironing foods. What's the most unexpected thing that you've ironed or deep fried that's worked for you?

Grilled cheese. If you're ever in a hotel and you have an iron and ... you want an easy way to make yourself some food without having to go buy stuff, you get some sliced bread, some American cheese, and some tinfoil. You could probably even ask your hotel for some tinfoil from the kitchen. Wrap it up in tinfoil [and] iron it. Delicious. It's perfectly delicious. That is a good hack. Maybe if you're camping in your car there, and maybe your car has a plug that is powerful enough for an iron. Plug that in. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when in a hotel room with an iron, an iron does the trick.

Eitan Bernath talks about his future

Where do you think your future is in food media? ... Do you see yourself having a food show on television, or do you think that social media is where the future is?

I'm the principal culinary contributor on "The Drew Barrymore Show," so I regularly do TV with her. To me, [TV and social media are] not mutually exclusive in their importance. It's very clear that social media is insanely important, culturally. The argument could very well be made ... that social media is more culinary, more culturally relevant than traditional television is. If you look at the social media platforms of mainstream celebrities, everyone does content now on social media. It used to be that they're this Hollywood glitz and glamor, unobtainable, this perfect person. Now, if you look at those people's social media, they're more vulnerable. ... Celebrities have realized that they need social media to stay relevant. ... 

Broadcast television has been declining for years, but I think there'll always be a market for it. ... They are both important, and they're both part of my goals. My goal is really to touch all facets of entertainment and media, whether it's books, whether [it's how] I am now a contributor to the Washington Post ... I do television with Drew. ... I have an Instagram, a TikTok, a Facebook. I have a blog. ... 

What I love to do is get people excited about food [and] inspire people to be in the kitchen and have fun in the kitchen. ... For a lot of people, cooking can be a burden, like, "Oh, I have to cook now" or "Oh, I need to wash dishes." Have fun with it. Maybe when you're washing dishes, blast some music. Every time I wash dishes, I blast music and I have a whole dance party in my kitchen. I'm probably get[ting] the floor overly wet. ... That is what makes me excited. When I meet fans in person, that's what I hear is killing it. I even heard from seasoned chefs, "I was a chef for 30 years and I got so burnt out, and your videos have made me get excited again." That's really what I work for.

"Eitan Eats the World" is available now everywhere books are sold and on EitanEatsTheWorld.com. Keep up with Eitan's latest projects at EitanBernath.com.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.