“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
Just like Vince, the stars inspire us too – but our stars are the Hollywood celebrities, famous musicians, and media personalities who make the news every day. We dream of their potential as trendsetters to propel the acceptance of insects into the Western diet. To that end, we’re compiling the Celebrity Bug Eaters Hall of Fame – our growing list of prominent personalities who’ve been spotted eating insects.
From the “om-bugs-men” of the music industry to Tinseltown’s most timid tasters, these famous trailblazers have thrust entomophagy into the spotlight. Take a peek, and see who’s joined the growing list.
Special thanks to Timmy Hirtle & NACIA for co-authoring (well, Timmy wrote most of these starter blurbs!) this awesome list. More to come soon 🙂
Imparting entomophagy to future generations: An accomplished actor and the leading star of many Hollywood blockbusters, Angelina Jolie is an advocate of entomophagy. “Crickets, you start with crickets. Crickets and a beer and then you kind of move up to tarantulas,” said Jolie during a 2017 BBC interview.
While talking with Good Morning America, the mother of six discussed her childrens’ taste for bugs. “They can eat a bag of crickets like a bag of chips,” said Jolie. “I’m learning to cook them better. A little more flair, a little more seasoning.” Reference: https://www.health.com/nutrition/angelina-jolie-eating-bugs
Celebrating in style with nature’s treats: One of America’s top singers, Justin Timberlake commemorated the release of his 2018 album, Man of the Woods, with a listening party that featured snacks such as “ants coated in black garlic and rose oil, and grasshoppers.”
Chefs from Copenhagen’s renowned culinary school, Noma, created wilderness-themed treats including bug delicacies. What did partygoers think of these delicacies? “Fancy bugs, basically,” as Tweeted by one music journalist at the party. [Reference]
A talent for enjoying edible insects: In 2018, Time Magazine named Australian-American actor Nicole Kidman one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And we hope that’s true, because that same year she calmly – and daintily – ate a buffet of bugs in front of the camera.
Performed for Vanity Fair’s “Secret Talent Theatre,” Kidman described the tastes of the insects (or “micro-livestock” as she called them) as “fruity” and “like nothing you’ve ever tasted.” During the two-minute video clip she eats hornworms, mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers. “Two billion people in the world eat bugs,” Kidman says, “and I’m one of them.” [Reference]
Boldly trying any bugs: During a 2010 interview on The George Lopez Show, American actor and singer Zac Efron told Lopez that he was adventurous when it comes to food and mentioned trying live larvae during a Mexican meal. He said it “tasted like creamed corn.”
Later on the show, a surprise of scorpions, Taiwanese crickets, and a “super worm cocktail” was brought for Efron to eat in front of the studio audience. Without hesitation Efron tried all three. The scorpion was “really good” but the crickets were “the best one,” according to Efron. The martini glass filled with bugs and lime juice simply received a grimace… and declaration of “that’s the worst.”
The George Lopez Show was a double whammy for celebrities eating insects, as Efron was able to convince the host to try a single cricket. This show wasn’t an end to Efron’s insect eating. In 2014, during the NBC reality survival series Running Wild With Bear Grylls, Efron proved his survival grit by eating an omelet of earthworms and pigeon eggshells. “That was so gross,” Efron said. [Reference 1 & 2]
Upholding a heritage of eating insects: In 2010, Mexican-born actor Salma Hayek told David Letterman on The Late Show that insects are part of her heritage and she’s eaten them since she was a child.
“These little ants fried are amazing with a little guacamole. And the worms, there are many different recipes for those. The little grasshoppers have a smoky flavour to them. It’s the way they cook them, and it’s really good,” said Hayek. Later in 2015, she uploaded to her 54,000 Instagram followers an up-close video of her mouth as she eats a cricket. “These are crickets from Mexico, from Oaxaca, and they are eaten…” she says. [Reference 1 & 2]
Foreseeing the future of food: During Nylon’s April 2015 cover girl interview, American actor Shailene Woodley told the magazine that she’s a fan of snacking on bugs and that she believes they’re the next big food trend.
“I’ve eaten ants and that was great,” she said, “and June bugs, that was great. I think the future of food is in insects, so we’ll see what happens.” [Reference]
Opting for adventurous eats: Questlove, and American musician, DJ, and the musical director for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, has eaten insects. In 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Questlove said that “I did try a few insects when I went to Korea. We went to a restaurant where snails was the most regular thing they had. It was… interesting.”
Saving the world with bug facts: Widely known as Bill Nye the Science Guy from the 1990s children’s TV show of the same name, Nye is a beloved entertainer and science advocate. On the Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World (2018, Season 3, Episode 4 “Recipes from the Future”) Aly Moore (a NACIA member) joins Nye.
During the episode, Moore whips up a mealworm lentil salad and a scorpion & chapuline (Mexican grasshopper) ceviche. Nye and his episode cohost – comedian Margaret Cho – nosh on the bug delicacies. During the episode the audience discovers the benefits of eating lemon ants, sago grubs, mealworms, and grasshoppers. “Science Rules!” [Reference]
Snacking sidekick support science: Known as a stand-up comedian with an explicit style, American-born Margaret Cho is a skilled television personality. In 2018 she appeared alongside Bill Nye on Bill Nye Saves the World (Season 3, Episode 4 “Recipes from the Future”).
In the episode, NACIA member Aly Moore prepared a mealworm lentil salad and a scorpion & chapuline (Mexican grasshopper) ceviche. As cohost, Cho sportingly helped Nye finish his insects. During “Recipes from the Future” the audience learns the environmental benefits of eating lemon ants, sago grubs, mealworms, and grasshoppers. [Reference]
Celebrating good news with good eats: In 2018, American rapper Kanye West received good news – his father’s cancer was in remission. To celebrate, father and son shared a plate of toasted insects. Kanye posted a photo to Instagram of a plate of toasted insects with wooden skewers.
Trying bugs for beauty: In 2010, American singer Jessica Simpson starred in the reality TV series The Price of Beauty. The show explored the concept of beauty in different cultures and followed Simpson, and her two best friends, around the globe.
During the first episode, Simpson and her friends travel to Thailand where they learn that eating insects has beauty benefits. The three visit a market in Bangkok and stop at a food stall selling fried worms, crickets, and cockroaches. Simpson gags and a friend states, “How are you going to do this, Jessica? You can’t even eat salmon!” Timidly, they eat some and dry heave dramatically while the seller looks on and giggles. [Reference]
Slurping silkworms in Seoul: Late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was no stranger to trying new foods. In 2015, during the 5th season of Parts Unknown, Bourdain traveled to South Korea to meet up with Mark Yin (a former member of Korean hip-hop group Drunken Tiger). The two shared a bowl of beondegi soup – a Korean street food made with silkworm pupae.
What did Bourdain, a guru of adventurous eating, have to say about the experience? “Eating bugs? That is so last network.” [Reference]
One and done is no fun: In 2010 while interviewing Zac Efron on The George Lopez Show, Lopez surprised Efron with a platter of edible insects. When Efron asked if Lopez wanted to dig in, Lopez responded “No, uh… yeah, I’ll dig in.” And proceeded to eat the citrus slice on the platter but no insects. Later, Efron goaded Lopez to try one of the Taiwanese crickets, which Lopez did. However, he only chewed for a second before spitting the lone cricket to the floor.
Well, nice try Lopez. You’ve made our celebrity entomophagy list anyways. [Reference]
Black-tie entomophagy surprise: In 2018, American television host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel surprised his young nephews with a trip to the exclusive New York restaurant – The Black Ant. When served corn chips and guacamole topped with black ants, Kimmel asked the kids if they liked it. The response, “It’s an odd taste, but it’s pretty good.” Commenting on his own experience with the guac Kimmel said, “The ants really get stuck in your teeth you know.”
Next plate was watermelon wedges topped with jamaica (hibiscus) jelly and grasshoppers, followed by worm tacos with chili peppers. “Get some worm in there, that’s what really gives it the zing,” said Kimmel as he ate the tacos. Followed by a mumble of, “crunchy, nice.” [Reference]
Giving insects gastronomic greatness: René Redzepi is the chef and co-owner of Copenhagen’s famous Nordic restaurant, Noma, which earned the title of The World’s Best Restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014. Redzepi later opened a new restaurant, Noma 2.0, in a new location, still following the ideology of “native ingredients explored through the lens of myriad cooking techniques.”
In 2008, Redzepi and gastronomic entrepreneur Claus Meyer established the non-profit, Nordic Food Lab (now part of Future Consumer Lab at the Department of Food Science at University of Copenhagen) to “explore the edible potential of the Nordic region”. Insects as food are just one part of their work.
In a letter to Time Magazine, Redzepi discusses insects and fermentation, saying, “This ongoing effort has unlocked worlds of flavor to us and has been a key to this restaurant’s success. In recent years, we’ve also been exploring how to incorporate insects into our menu…” “…insects are protein-rich and can be a sustainable form of eating around the world, ferments can positively transform many of the things that would otherwise go to waste, and vegetation, I’d argue, has more potentials for variety and deliciousness than the habits we’ve been following for decades.” [Reference]
Elevating entomophagy awareness: Award-winning science correspondent, actor, and host, Alie Ward, talks with scientists on her Ologies podcast to highlight their research and passions. During her 2018 Entomophagy Anthropology podcast episode, she interviews Dr. Julie Lesnik – an expert on eating bugs.
“We talk about grasshopper tacos, ant omelettes, the nature of life, humane bug slaughter, water conservation, deep-fried scorpions, at-home mealworm farming, cricket chips, protein needs and the cultural biases that are literally killing us.” In 2016, Ward was the judge of the entomophagy chef competition at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Bug Fair. She posted on Twitter, “This involves eating bugs.” [Reference]
Phil Torres is an American biologist, bug expert, science communicator, explorer, and popular host of shows such as The Jungle Diaries, TechKnow, and Ready, Set, Pet. He’s also a proponent for entomophagy.
According to Torres during a 2013 TechKnow episode, “Just as insects can come in a variety so of forms, so can entomophagy. You can eat insects as either your main source of nutrients or as just a condiment.”
“When you look at crickets, you don’t necessarily think food,” Torres says. “But in fact, 100 grams of crickets has about 13 grams of protein and only 120 calories. So think of it as a cricket protein bar.” [Reference]
A-Round funding for insect bars: In 2016, the American rapper, songwriter, and entrepreneur known as Nas made a significant A-round investment in Exo – a company that makes protein bars and other food products from crickets.
Author Tim Ferriss and obstacle racer Amelia Boone are some other early (and notable) investors in Exo. [Reference]
Capitalizing on chapulines: During a 2014 episode of Shark Tank, Mark Cuban (an American businessman and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks) invested $50,000 for a 10 percent stake in Chapul – a company creating energy bars and other tasty food products from cricket protein.
(Yes, other “Sharks” tasted the cricket bars but only Cuban invested… so he gets the coveted spot on our list.) In 2017, on different episode of Shark Tank, Cuban made a further investment in entomophagy, exchanging $100,000 for 15 percent equity in Chirps – a company making cricket protein chips and other products. [Reference 1 & 2]
Funding the food of the future: In 2014, American entrepreneur and well-known author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss was a part of a group that invested in Exo – a company that makes flavored protein bars and other products out of crickets.
According to Ferriss’ social media feed, “Cocoa nut is my favorite flavor.” [Reference]
An enduring investment in protein bars: In 2016, celebrated obstacle racer and endurance athlete Amelia Boone made an A-round investment in Exo – a company that makes flavored energy bars and other food products from crickets.
Rapper Nas and author Tim Ferriss are some of the other early, and notable, investors in Exo. [Reference]
A forward-thinking food financer: Arielle Zuckerberg doesn’t get the limelight her Facebook-founding brother does. But for her forward-thinking deeds, we think she should. In 2015, Arielle invested in Bitty Foods, a company specializing in food products made with cricket protein. And in 2016…
“I invested in Tiny Farms, which falls on the supply side of cricket protein.” Arielle says, “I actually got introductions and became known as ‘the cricket person’ despite only doing one investment. It’s interesting, though. When you find these really niche spaces that you’re passionate and excited about, people can see that excitement, and they’ll just send similar opportunities your way.” [Reference]
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A hands-on investment in entomophagy: Celebrity chef and host of several Food Network shows, Tyler Florence has also appeared on talk shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, and The View. In 2014, Florence became an equity investor and culinary director at Bitty Foods, a company specializing in products made with cricket protein.
What does Bitty Foods’ High-Protein All Purpose Baking Flour – made with a mix of crickets, cassava, tapioca, and coconut – taste like? “Tastes like dark toast,” says Florence. [Reference]
Help this list grow! Email in additions to firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
NAMES PENDING (SUGGESTIONS THAT HAVE YET TO BE FORMALLY ADDED):
- Kari Byron (formerly Mythbusters, had Monica Martinez and Don Bugito on her new show Crash Test World)
- Terry Crews (buzzfeed protein shake video)
- Brandon Guyer (MLB)
- Meta World Peace (NBA)
- Barack Obama (in autobiography discusses eating insects as young boy when living in Indonesia)
- Bill Clinton (Clinton Foundation supported Aspire Food Group via Hult Prize)
- Bill Gates