Andy Baraghani is many things, but he wouldn’t call himself a content creator. The amiable Iranian chef worked at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse and Nolita favorite Estela before a six-year stint as an editor at Bon Appétit, where he became a mainstay of the brand’s YouTube channel. Because of that, he says, “people probably refer to me as a content creator, but I don’t feel the need to keep adding hyphens.”
He may shrug off the label, but he fits it well. In recent months, Baraghani has been promoting his cookbook, The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress, which arrived in May. A newsletter is in the works, and he’s looking into starting his own YouTube channel for video dispatches from his kitchen and his “other love” of interior design. And he has already blended those two passions by crafting a personal website (created with Squarespace) that is as vibrant as his dishes.
When we asked Baraghani to send us five of his favorite internet videos in no particular order, we admittedly expected a few about food. But it turns out that Baraghani is just as much of a pop culture aficionado as he is a content creator or writer or cook. He spoke to Mashable from a train to Penn Station, recalling movie memories of his childhood and the icons he admires and adores.
1. “Best 6 1/2 minutes of Mommie Dearest“
Mashable: I have to confess, I had not seen Mommie Dearest until you sent me this. I watched it and, honestly, I didn’t like it that much.
Andy Baraghani: I mean, it is a ridiculous movie, total camp, over the top on all fronts. But it has become iconic in the queer film cannon. I think it [has to do with] Faye Dunaway, I love so many of her movies prior to Mommie Dearest. And the fact that the film was adapted from a book by Jane Crawford’s adopted daughter… there’s so many aspects of it that are just, oh my God, it’s so delicious to me. And so gay.
My only point of reference to Faye Dunaway was…
Don’t say the Oscars flub!
Because Bowen Yang’s Instagram handle is Faye Dunaway!
I love that! I’m friendly with Bo, I feel like I need to ask him why exactly, but I’m gonna put money on it having something to do with Mommie Dearest.
I love “Las Culturistas,” his podcast with Matt Rogers. Given your interest in pop culture, they need to have you on. Where’s that collab?
I would love to! I love both of them, they’re so great. I feel like we’d just be laughing and not get through the segment but that’d be so much fun.
2. “Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig present ‘Little Women’ wins Best Costume Design”
OK, so another great performance here.
Yes! To go to bed, I usually watch old SNL skits with Maya Rudolph, Kristin Wiig, or Amy Poehler. There’s just certain women from SNL that I love and adore and I’ll watch their work outside of the show, too. That, along with Oscar speeches, is the way I typically go to bed. I tend to watch things that make me smile before bed.
Why Oscar speeches?
Oscar speeches, award speeches, achievement awards. I’ve watched hundreds. I don’t know exactly why. As a kid I was enamored by movies. I still love movies. The idea of an individual being overwhelmed at a particular moment by their accomplishment and being awarded for that is something that I find very satisfying.
Growing up, what was your favorite movie?
I think for a while — I’m so gay — it was My Best Friend’s Wedding. I was very into Julia Roberts, and I thought Dermot Mulroney was the most handsome man on the planet. When you’re younger, I feel like you end up watching a movie over and over again. Hocus Pocus, Casino, Goodfellas, a lot of gangster movies. I definitely spent a lot of time watching old movies, horror movies, just because I wanted to see [things] through a different cultural lens
The gangster movies thread is interesting.
I think that had to do with my older cousins in Vancouver where I spent the holidays. They would always watch Goodfellas, the Godfather series, Casino, Once Upon a Time in America, Main Streets, all of those.
3. “Barbara Walters’ Biggest Interview Regrets”
I’m so intrigued by this side of your life because I’ve just always associated you with food, but given what you’ve said about your love of acceptance speeches, it makes sense that you’d be into Barbara Walters. I watched a clip of her interviewing Oprah where Oprah realized mid-interview that she was proud of herself and that she had achieved everything she had wanted to when she was younger.
There’s a through line for sure. I enjoy ridiculous moments of comedy and the other side of people being vulnerable and opening up and being overwhelmed with emotion. In my own little way, I try to approach that in my own work. I developed 400-plus recipes prior to writing a book and when I wanted to develop a recipe or write a story about a specific person or restaurant, I really wanted it to feel like it had substance and emotion behind it. I do really try to think about what perspective, story, and meaning I’m bringing.
It’s very, very difficult for me to write about something I have no connection to. And I wouldn’t say that that’s necessarily a positive or negative thing. There’s so many people that I know who are able to do a lot of work that they’re not connected to and be very successful at it, and I applaud them. In some ways I’m envious. It was very hard for me to do things that I didn’t like. Not from a stubborn place! Just like, “This doesn’t feel enough.”
4. “Janet Jackson – ‘Love Will Never Do (Without You)’ (Official Music Video)”
I don’t really feel like I need to ask “why Janet,” but why Janet?
There are many videos of hers that I could have put down, and I really thought about this one. I really do believe Janet’s underrated and she represents a lot of good memories for me. Her music has brought a great deal of joy throughout my childhood and adulthood. I remember seeing her in concert and I think it was the only time I’ve gotten on my feet.
There’s something about her I’m very drawn to and I think she has had such an impact in a multitude of ways to a range of artists that she’s really not given enough credit for. I remember watching the Love Will Never Do music video and I thought it was just the sexiest video. There’s so much about it — the silhouettes, what she’s wearing, Antonio Sabàto Jr. and Djimon Hounsou, all the shapes — it’s very ‘90s. Herb Ritts did the video. He is one of the great photographers and directors [of that time], and he died of AIDS in the early 2000s.
When do you usually listen to Janet?
I listen to Janet pretty much any time. There is no wrong time for Janet. I feel very connected to certain women of a certain age — as many gay men do — that have gone through a lot of hardships in their lives. And she’s definitely someone who’s experienced plenty of hardships. Not that my life is anything like Janet Jackson’s! But when I think about female singers that I really love and admire, that I swear by, they’re all of a certain age or older: Diana Ross — I mean, it’s pretty gay — Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Madonna, Aretha, Patti. Now I just go by first names. Joni Mitchell. Courtney Love.
5. “Jinkx Monsoon Slaying the Roast Challenge”
I feel like Drag Race would be right up my alley, but that I can’t commit to becoming a stan. I feel like it’s too far down the road now for me to jump on that train.
I’m gonna make a case for you to, because I love making cases. And that is if my stubborn boyfriend, whom I love more than anything on this planet, is able to actually have a change of heart when it comes to Drag Race, you can, too. He just was like, “Ugh, God, what are you watching? He would get annoyed. He wouldn’t even be in the same room. And now he will play clips of Drag Race without me around. It is never too late, there’s no right or wrong time to get into it.
I have been a devoted fan for a very, very long time, and this past season was definitely one of the best. Very different obviously, but it definitely stood out. And it was very clear that Jinkx was someone who was brilliant, very smart, quick.
I’m a big Trixie and Katya fan. Those are my queens.
Love! I love Trixie. I really love Katya.
I also feel affinity for Katya, because of her weirdness. Trixie’s a little more mainstream. What did it take to get your boyfriend into Drag Race?
It happened gradually. I think I just told him, “Just watch this!” and one thing made him smirk, laugh, or smile. Then there’s a bit of curiosity instilled. And I think that’s with anything in life. You have to hope there’s still a certain level of openness from the receiver. Him not being into Drag Race can be someone not being into whatever — tomato, a particular craft or aesthetic — you have to just find the one thing.