When Brad Oscar dishes on his favorite foods, you can almost feel him travel back in time – before the Broadway lights beckoned – to his mother’s kitchen and the food that reminds him of his childhood.
“One of my fondest memories is doing the weekly grocery shopping with my mother as a kid,” he says. “We did dinner as a family almost every night. I realize how important that is and was. We had no TV on during dinner. We had no cell phones. That was part of my upbringing. The fellowship, the connection that comes when we all gather.”
The two-time Tony nominee grew up Jewish and food played a big part of his life and his food point of view. He believes that every culture has its own connection to food, and the tastes and smells of the holidays connected him to the big events. Whether it was Thanksgiving or Passover, his entire family gathered together and cooked a feast that to this day remains unforgettable to him.
“Whenever we were brought together with the family for a big event, there was always food,” he says. “There is an emotional connection when I smell certain foods — things that I had as a child that I will carry with me the rest of my life. They do ground me in my history.” These days, Oscar doesn’t have much time for big family meals and rustic home cooking. Doing eight shows a week, twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the smash hit Something Rotten!, takes away the time to be able to do much cooking on his own.
In a demanding role like Nostradamus, where Oscar sings, dances and prognosticates his way through a high-energy two-and-a-half-hour show, finding the right fuel is essential. He relies on a combo of chicken (he calls himself a “big chicken guy”), rice and beans, salad, egg whites and whole grain breads to get him through the show.
“We rarely get to cook anymore,” he says. “We have so little time to do it anymore. My husband is much more of the cook. I love to be his sous chef. Life has been so crazy for these last couple months that I’ve mostly been eating the old standbys. But he did get me to be able to try Brussels sprouts.”
Oscar admits he is not a “foodie” in the traditional sense of the word. He considers himself somewhat of a foodie in that he likes to eat, and he likes to eat good food. He quantifies himself as a classic “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, "a steakhouse guy.” Nothing too fancy, nothing too pretentious, just good food done right.
“I often blame my mother for not making me eat my vegetables,” he jokes. “I’m a little touch and go. My husband could not be more adventurous, he appreciates good food, and he’s Argentinian. But I’m trying! I’m trying for my husband, and I’m trying for myself.”
But he’s not one to forgo an indulgence every now and then. A true Hell’s-Kitchenite, fans can find him out and about in the neighborhood, allowing the occasional indulgence at Virgil’s for the hush puppies, or Five Napkin for a burger, or even Ruth’s Chris for a filet with Bearnaise, where he dined after the Tonys this year.
His favorite haunt, though, is Joe Allen’s. His favorite cheat meal after a particularly rewarding show is a burger from Joe’s, and a Ketel on the rocks. But it’s not without a touch of nostalgia, as with most of his choices.
“When we were young, we would come up to the city and see five shows over the weekend,” he recalls. “Then on Saturday night, we would go as a family and have a burger at Joe Allen's. We would always go out after the show. It was part of how I was raised. I have been blessed to do this and make a career. I can’t just go home and go to bed — I’m so wired. I like to have a nosh or a cocktail. If you don’t go out after the show, then you really don’t understand the joy of the theatre, the savoring of the moment.”
And from the comfort of his mother’s kitchen to his rise to stardom on Broadway, Oscar certainly seems to be savoring each and every moment.
Everyday: Chicken, rice and beans, salad, egg whites, whole-grain breads
Splurges: Hush Puppies at Virgil's, Filet with Bearnaise at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Favorite Meal: Burger and Ketel on the Rocks at Joe Allen's, 326 W. 46th St.
[Kori Frederick is a senior producer for "Chopped" on the Food Network and a freelance contributor to Playbill, with a strong love for food, theatre, words and NYC. She can be reached at email@example.com.]