10 Surprising Foodies

By: Debra Ronca

A "foodie" isn't above french fries, as long as they're tasty.
A "foodie" isn't above french fries, as long as they're tasty.

A "foodie" is someone with an avid interest in food and the trends in cuisine. Foodies don't just enjoy eating -- they also enjoy learning about what they're putting in their mouths.

Don't think that a foodie is some kind of snob, though. Foodies are interested in good food. Period. It doesn't have to be expensive and gourmet -- it just has to be good, made from quality ingredients. A foodie will relish a tasty burger just as much as he or she might relish a $100 spoon of caviar.


We all know the usual suspects in the foodie world -- all-star chefs, writers like Mark Bittman or critics like Gael Green. However, you might be surprised to find out that your favorite actor or historical figure might also be a food connoisseur! On the next few pages, we'll reveal some unlikely foodies. We'll discuss wine aficionados as well. After all, good food is usually accompanied by good wine.

Let's get started, and bon appétit!

10. Charles Darwin

It may come as no surprise that naturalist Charles Darwin took a uniquely scientific approach to eating. He led the Glutton Club during his years as a student at Cambridge University. The Glutton Club's mission was to procure and eat the strangest and rarest species known to gourmets.

Darwin ate hawk, bittern (a waterfowl) and, once, even an old brown owl. He tried armadillo and unknown large rodents. And, by the way, he said that armadillo tasted like duck.


Darwin's wife enjoyed cooking for her husband, and today you can even buy a book of her recipes, culled from her personal notes.

9. Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell came to fame as the front man for the popular American rock band Soundgarden -- a breakthrough band from Seattle's early '90s "grunge" scene. Cornell also found success as lead singer of the band Audioslave, as well as various other projects.

What many people don't know is that Cornell is also a successful restaurateur. His Black Calavados eatery in Paris receives kudos for its truffled mac-and-cheese and caramelized quail. Cornell traces his interest in food back to his pre-rock-and-roll days when he worked as a fish handler and, later, as a sous chef for a local seafood joint.


8. Thomas Jefferson

The third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, advocated sustainable gardening and supported local agriculture. First Lady Michelle Obama even calls Jefferson "our first foodie."

Jefferson grew about 500 varieties of food and vegetables on his Monticello estate. He cultivated a wine cellar and championed the then-fledgling American wine industry.


Legendary for his dinner parties, Jefferson threw feasts where his contemporaries could discuss current events over wine and a good meal. He even redesigned the dining area at Monticello to make meals more pleasant, with less disruption from staff.

7. Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris is best known as the child star who played the lead role on the TV show "Doogie Howser, M.D." Today he's a successful stage, screen and TV actor and a self-described foodie.

During an appearance on the American television show "Top Chef," Harris surprised everyone with his in-depth knowledge about flavor profiles and insightful critiques of the chefs' offerings.


Harris also frequently posts to his Twitter feed about the various restaurants he visits during his travels.

6. Emperor Nero

Nero was the emperor of Rome from A.D. 54 to A.D. 68. Perhaps he was the ultimate foodie, although not in a good way.

Historians describe Nero as a man with a thick neck, skinny legs and a huge belly. He threw legendary 12-hour-long feasts, where he would eat in a reclining position. In between courses, he fraternized with local prostitutes.


Nero demanded the most fashionable food. He devoured things like sculpted statues of pork and stuffed sow's womb, and would have the chef killed if the meal didn't meet his standards. He even used food to kill most of his wives and family -- he laced their meals with poison.

5. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was an American patriot. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and signed the U.S. Constitution. And, like Thomas Jefferson, he supported local agriculture, as a way to reduce dependence on foreign imports.

Franklin's favorite foods were native fare like cranberries, maple syrup and Indian corn. He also enjoyed learning about foods from other cultures, and reportedly made the first mention of tofu in America in a letter to a colleague.


In the 1700s, the French thought the potato was poisonous. Ben Franklin played a big part in helping change their minds. It puts "freedom fries" in a new light, doesn't it?

4. Brian Boitano

Legendary figure skater Brian Boitano is best known for his gold medal-winning performance in the 1988 Olympics. More recently, though, he's gained foodie status, complete with his own TV cooking show.

His love of food developed when he purchased his first home in his 20s and began throwing dinner parties for his friends. Now he creates meals for events -- matching food to certain themes and even coming up with unique cocktail creations.


3. Thunder Parley

Admittedly, Thunder Parley isn't a household name. But if we're talking about unlikely foodies, we must include him on the list.

Parley, a software engineer employed by Google, is emerging as the company's go-to guy on all things foodie. The Google campus has 17 cafeterias, and Parley posts thorough and critical reviews of the food served.


His reviews are so popular, they now influence the chefs and menu at Google. A positive review will send hundreds of employees scurrying to the cafeteria to sample the dish. In addition to his regular software engineer duties, Parley now is part of a committee that interviews potential Google chefs.

2. Maynard James Keenan

Keenan is best known for being lead singer of the multi-platinum rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, but he's also a noted wine enthusiast.

His personal wine cellar includes more than 6,000 bottles. He also owns a winery and vineyard in Arizona. Unlike many other celebrities with vanity labels, he's involved in every step of the process from harvesting to barreling.


1. Vincent Price

King of the horror genre, Vincent Price worked in Hollywood from the 1950s until his death in the 1990s. Famed for his performances in films like "House of Wax," "The Fly" and -- shortly before his death -- "Edward Scissorhands," Vincent Price was also a true gourmet.

Price and his wife Mary were enthusiastic foodies, even co-penning a cookbook in 1965. The book, "A Treasury of Great Recipes," is lauded for being an excellent example of 1960s American cuisine.

Price even released a few LP albums discussing food. You can find some of these with a simple YouTube search.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Arnold, Eric. "Wine Talk: Maynard James Keenan." Wine Spectator. Nov. 2, 2006. http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Wine-Talk-Maynard-James-Keenan_3265
  • Bateson, Dusha. "Mrs. Charles Darwin's Recipe Book: Revived and Illustrated." Glitterati, Inc., IL. 2008.
  • Bowman, Leslie. "Celebrating the Fourth of July with Thomas Jefferson." The Huffington Post. July 4, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-green-bowman/celebrating-the-fourth-of_b_633609.html
  • Bramen, Lisa. "Ben Franklin: Patriot, Foodie." Smithsonian.com. July 3, 2009. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2009/07/03/ben-franklin-patriot-foodie/
  • Coil, Katy. "Movies 101: Who Was Vincent Price?" Nashville Movie Examiner. Oct. 30, 2009. http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3770-Nashville-Movie-Examiner~y2009m10d30-Movies-101-Who-was-Vincent-Price
  • Collins, Paul. "I'll Have the Banana Pancake Flambé Stonehenge." Slate.com. Aug. 20, 2008. http://www.slate.com/id/2197533
  • Crocker, Amy. "SFist Interviews: Brian Boitano." SFist.com. Aug. 7, 2009. http://sfist.com/2009/08/07/sfist_interviews_brian_boitano.php
  • Diski, Chloe. "Famous foodies: Charles Darwin." The Observer. March 9, 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2003/mar/09/foodanddrink.features15
  • Diski, Chloe. "Famous Foodies: Nero." The Observer. April 13, 2003. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2003/apr/13/foodanddrink.features20
  • "Episode 4: Magic Chefs." Bravotv.com. July 8, 2009. http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef-masters/season-1/magic-chefs
  • Guynn, Jessica. "Techie dishes on Google's grub." Los Angeles Times. Jan. 14, 2008. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-thunder14jan14,0,3440106.story
  • Jacob, Matthew. "What the Great Ate: A Curious History of Food and Fame." Three Rivers Press; NY. 2010.
  • Miller, Stephen. "He Brought Italian Truffles to the World." Wall Street Journal. July 1, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704334604575339104093365906.html
  • Rosner, Helen. "Thomas Jefferson: America's Foodiest President." Grub Street New York. May 25, 2010. http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2010/05/thomas_jefferson_is_americas_f.html
  • Stout, Gene. "As a Paris restaurateur and family man, life is now good for Audioslave rocker." Seattlepi.com. April 21, 2006. http://www.seattlepi.com/pop/267486_cornell21.html
  • Weston, Nicole. "What is a foodie, anyway?" Slashfood. Feb. 10, 2006. http://www.slashfood.com/2006/02/10/what-is-a-foodie-anyway/