Sorry for the obvious pun, but “Modern Family” star Jesse Tyler Ferguson certainly has a strong “tie” to Chicago.
The actor has partnered his Tie the Knot organization with Lincoln Park-based The Tie Bar, which distributes the bow ties (and other accessories) sold to support Ferguson’s charity. Tie The Knot was co-founded by the openly gay Ferguson in 2012 to advocate for marriage equality. Now that it’s the law of the land in the United States, the actor said in a recent phone call the group’s focus is to “protect marriage equality and to raise awareness and support LGBTQ equality throughout the world.”
In honor of the actor’s upcoming role hosting the James Beard Awards here Monday night, Ferguson and his team at www.tietheknot.org have created a special black bow tie with subtle outlines of chef-oriented designs, including a whisk, wooden spoon, rolling pin, butcher’s knife, spatula and the like.
As for the Beard Awards, Ferguson said he was excited to have been asked to emcee the evening — clearly the Oscars of the culinary world. “I’m a big foodie, a fan of chefs, a fan of eating out, so to have the opportunity to host what is [the chefs’] biggest night is very thrilling for me.
“It is a bit intimidating, because it’s not the world that people initially connect with me. I am an observer from the outside, an appreciator and a consumer, but I love that they’re trusting me with emceeing the Beard Awards,” said the entertainer, who does co-host with good friend and veteran food writer Julie Tanous a food blog at www.jessetylerferguson.com/food. The site features favorite recipes, plus a number of food-related topics as well as the Emmy nominee’s other projects and interests.
Ferguson refers to himself as “a late bloomer” when it comes to cuisine. “It really kind of started when I moved to New York City at age 21 — where I was exposed to different ethnic foods and flavors that I hadn’t experienced growing up in Albuquerque. Because I did grow up in New Mexico, I was familiar with lots of different Mexican foods and bold flavors, but I had never tried Indian food or sushi or things like that. I came to New York as a sort of sheltered kid, and trying to keep up with all the cool kids in New York, I bravely would eat things like tikka masala and mandaloo, and eating raw fish on rice — which opened up my palate.”
Later on, when Ferguson moved to Los Angeles, “I was able to afford more space and buy a home with a kitchen you can actually cook in, as opposed to the closet of a kitchen I had in New York City. So, then I started finding joy in cooking — which became a sort of meditation thing for me. It’s a nice way to wind down, at the end of a long day. I love being in charge of everything on the plate. I like to try switching around recipes that I’ve found in books and sort of making them my own.”
Because of his connection to Chicago’s The Tie Bar, Ferguson and his husband, Justin Mikita, visit the city frequently and have come to love the city’s art and architecture and well-established, excellent food scene.
While in town to host the Beard Awards, the couple will finally get the chance to dine at Grant Achatz’s famed Alinea restaurant. “I don’t think giving them my name was enough [to get the reservation]. I literally had to mention that I was hosting the James Beard Awards, and said, ‘I think your chef is going to be there. Do you think we can come?’ ” he said with a huge laugh.
As for his Mitchell Pritchett character on “Modern Family,” the actor said “it is probably the character — of all that I’ve played — who is closest to me. That’s why I’m sure I got the role, but I do think Mitchell is a little more serious than me in real life. … However, sometimes I wish I had his wit and his smarts and his law degree!”
He’s about to conclude his eighth season alongside former Chicagon Eric Stonestreet, who plays his husband on the sitcom. “I met Eric before I met my husband in real life. He’s straight and I’m gay and neither one of us is each other’s physical types. We were put together by other people for the show — hence, it’s an arranged marriage. But at this point, we are so close and know each other so well, we can finish each other’s sentences!”