By Emma Sarran Webster | May 5, 2017 | People
We caught up with Jesse Tyler Ferguson in advance of his host gig at the James Beard Foundation Awards to talk favorite chefs and recipes, his work with The Tie Bar and Tie The Knot, LGBTQ rights, and what he loves about Chicago.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson may be best known for his role as Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family, but his interests—and talents—go far beyond acting, delving into the worlds of food, fashion, and philanthropy, and on a recent trip to Chicago, he focused on all three. Ferguson came to the Windy City to host the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards on May 1 and to celebrate his newest charitable line with The Tie Bar.
Ferguson and his husband, Justin Mikita, have been partnering with The Tie Bar for the past five years, designing bow ties that not only reflect their imitable style, but also benefit their foundation, Tie The Knot, which advocates for LGBTQ civil rights. This month, Tie The Knot is launching its first formal wedding collection, with designs inspired by Ferguson and Mikita’s own nuptials, as well as one designed in partnership with the James Beard Foundation (which Ferguson debuted at the awards). The new ties will be available beginning May 16 on thetiebar.com, as well as in-store at 918 W. Armitage, and $20 of each $25 purchase will go directly back to Tie The Knot.
We caught up with Ferguson a few days before the James Beard Awards to talk about food, ties, and what this new collection means to him.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita.
You’re hosting the James Beard Awards here in Chicago. Have you always considered yourself a foodie?
JESSE TYLER FERGUSON: Well, I’ve always liked to eat because, you know, one has to. But as I've grown up, my palate has certainly expanded, and living in cities like New York and Los Angeles I've become more adventurous in my eating. So, I think in my 20s I started to realize that there was more to eating than just the foods I was used to eating in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I've certainly become a fan of the culinary world, and I have been more adventurous in my own kitchen and have expanded my palate, and really tried to embrace what I love about eating out and bring that into my own kitchen. So I think it's been a recent thing, but I certainly love the culinary world and I'm a huge admirer of the people who are in it.
What is your favorite recipe to make at home?
JTF: It honestly changes; I don't have a specialty. I tend to cook healthier at home. I take the opportunity to be in control of my own ingredients and create healthy meals for my husband and myself. But I have a really delicious sriracha salmon that I love making. I found [it] in Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook and I've started making my own adjustments to it and making it my own, which I love doing.
Looking to the James Beard Awards, are there any chefs you’re particularly excited about, or excited to see?
JTF: Yeah, I'm a huge fan of Chef's Table. I've watched every episode of that and so many people who have been featured on that show are going to be in the room, so I'm very excited to meet as many of them as I can. It's a lot of people whose cookbooks I have, like April Bloomfield and Nancy Silverton. I've met so many celebrities—I've had the pleasure of meeting Brad Pitt and George Clooney—and that's still exciting, but I think I get more of a kick out of meeting famous chefs. And bloggers, too! I'm a fan of so many bloggers who are cooking online now.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
You’re also in town promoting your Tie The Knot charity collection with The Tie Bar. Why is it so important to you?
JTF: We're approaching our fifth anniversary [of Tie The Knot] and we initially started it to raise funds for marriage equality. Justin and I wanted to get married as well, so it's obviously something that's very close to us. We love being part of the institution of marriage, and we achieved full federal marriage equality a few years ago and that's great. But now we're continuing to raise funds to protect that equality which, in times like these, is very important. Full federal equality is something we haven't achieved. You can get married on a Friday and lose your job on a Monday for being gay in some states. So, we still have a lot of work to do. We like to celebrate what we've achieved but there's still a lot of work to be done. It's been fantastic teaming up with The Tie Bar these past five years and creating these really beautiful collections. It's something that speaks deeply to us, obviously on a social level, but it's also something we really enjoy doing—we enjoy fashion and it's a fun, sort of whimsical way of embracing a very important issue.
Tell me about the new wedding collection and how it reflects your personal style.
JTF: [The ties] are based on patterns and designs from our own wedding. We're approaching our four-year anniversary in July, so we basically looked at photos from our wedding and said, ‘Let's use this as the inspiration for some of these designs.’ So, we've taken some of the patterns and styles, and then incorporated the colors that are trending right now for weddings.
Tie the Knot's James Beard Tie.
And you're wearing one of the new ties at the James Beard Awards.
JTF: I'll be wearing the James Beard Tie that we created with the James Beard Foundation. That is in celebration of the awards, and proceeds from that particular tie go to protecting LGBTQ equality in the culinary world; to the James Beard Foundation. So we're excited to team up with them on that. And it's a really cute tie: It's black and simple, but if you look closely there's a really fantastic pattern with whisks, rolling pins, and kitchen utensils.
Great! And shifting gears a bit: Have you spent much time in Chicago before this trip?
JTF: Yeah, we were in and out of Chicago a lot the past five years with our work with The Tie Bar. And as a kid, I [came] to Chicago a few times. I remember going to the Art Institute and seeing the Georges Seurat paintings. I love Chicago.
Photography Courtesy of The Tie Bar