Playing the dual roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, fueling up is a number one priority before the curtain goes up.
“There’s a little place on 52nd and Eighth called Peking Duck and I have been going there since I first got to NYC in 2007,” he explains. “I am a duck fanatic. I love it. I feel bad. I’m the kind of guy who sees the other people feeding the ducks with bread and I’m trying to figure out how I can snatch one. [This place] has great Peking duck, and for only $7.99 you can get roast duck over rice. I love it! It’s my place.”
Iglehart describes himself as a “comfortable” foodie. Whether it’s steak, wings, or you guessed it, duck, he’s got a go-to place for each. Some places are strictly New York local fare, but he’s not above going to a chain restaurant or two. (In fact, he enjoyed a victory meal at McDonald’s after winning his Tony.) He’s no snob; he’s just a man who enjoys a good meal.
Not that anyone can blame him. Since moving to New York in 2007, he has tackled some of the most arduous roles on the Great White Way. From Hamilton to Aladdin back to his roles in Memphis and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he’s no stranger to the theatre district, or its many tasty haunts. In fact, he became a household name at Junior’s while starring in Memphis.
“When I was in Memphis, our stage door was across from Junior’s,” he laughs. “That was the most dangerous thing in the world. Not the set. Not the snow of New York. I got so lazy I would just call them and they’d walk over. I went there so much that my wife cut me off. ‘Your wife told us that we couldn’t,’ [they’d say].
“Their half BBQ chicken with fries is my favorite thing, and their devil’s food cake is also my favorite thing. So once a month I have to do a Junior’s run. But for a while, I knew all those guys by name—it was like Cheers, and they’d be like ‘James!!’ It was such a fun moment. My whole tenure at Memphis was singing awesome songs and being a name at Junior’s.”
Iglehart feels fortunate to have grown up around some fantastic cooks. His grandmother and grandfather both cooked and he learned how to BBQ attached to his grandpa’s hip. His grandpa taught him how to make ribs and hot links over the open fire; meanwhile, his grandma would make gumbo and catfish inside the house. “And that was just a Sunday!” he says.
Family bonding happened around the dinner table and those meals. He remembers with fond reverence turning 17 and being allowed to move from the kids table to the adult table. His family went out to eat at a lot of different types of restaurants and they cooked at home a lot, giving him respect for different foods and different cultures. There are very few things he won’t eat; with the glaring exception of eggs (“It’s nice to look at but I can’t digest them”), pears (“They’re like sad apples, we wanted to be apples but couldn’t quite make it”), and octopus (“They’re highly intelligent so I won’t eat them, that’s why I eat chicken and duck; they’re pretty dumb.”)
It’s not all duck and decadence for Iglehart, for his pre-show meal he likes grilled chicken or grilled fish. His wife keeps him on track and makes a lot of low-fat dinners and desserts for him at home. Keeping the meal light helps him stay light on his feet and not get too sluggish for the intense performances he delivers night after night.
But when he’s saved room for a tasty treat he has a couple can’t-miss spots for sweets. He says he’s late to the party but just discovered Empire Cakes. Their red velvet Twinkie is so good “it’s like I don’t need to live after this.” But his real show-stopper is a place down on Bleecker St.: Molly’s Cupcakes.
“She’s not the devil, but she does know him!” he says. “There’s no way she can do that without having some sinfulness in her. She has a peach cobbler cupcake that will literally make you fight your best friend. The crème brule cupcake is amazing, it has that crunch on top; their salted caramel cupcake is amazing. I have a caramel problem.”
Though he claims to only be a “comfortable” foodie, it’s clear Iglehart is on another level, just like his legendary performances.
Kori Frederick is a television producer in NYC who loves food and theatre. She's currently working on The Chew on ABC.