Rip Micheals Dishes On His Favorite Food Hacks And Moments On Urban Eats & Treats - Exclusive Interview

You may have seen comedian Rip Micheals tear up the stage on "Showtime at the Apollo” or serve up laughs on MTV's "Wild 'N Out," but you may have never taken this star for a deeply passionate foodie. All of that now looks to change, thanks to Micheals' new HARTBEAT Studios production, "Urban Eats & Treats."

The series follows Micheals and celebrity friends like Nick Cannon, Shaquille O'Neal, and Tone Bell around the country as the stars try out some of the best meals off the beaten path. Mashed caught up with Rip Micheals for an exclusive interview to hear exactly how this project started, what goes into making a star-studded production really shine, and how food has played an important role in Micheals' life. The host not only shared his insight into how the series took off, but he also laid out plans for the next seasons and shared some top-secret food hacks that he has figured out for himself over the years.

The birth of a television show

First off, tell me — "Urban Eats & Treats." What's the story behind it? How'd that get started?

"Urban Eats & Treats" got started because I'm a restaurant owner myself. I owned a restaurant for the bars and it's located all in New York. When I noticed the trend of COVID happening, I noticed a lot of urban businesses in a lot of urban areas were struggling to stay afloat. So I got all my celebrity friends, and I was like, "I want you guys to take me to your favorite urban restaurants." It started with me trying to bring business back to these areas that weren't doing so good. Then I wanted everyone to understand that Shaq[uille O'Neal] still eats in this area and Cardi [B] still eats here and she still goes to Crab Legs.

Then, it turned into a phenomenon where everybody's like, "Well, Rip, I want to show you my restaurant that I love in California. I want to show you this in Atlanta." It turned into so many different celebrities wanting to shed light on where they grew up and show all this infusion and all this stuff that's great in their neighborhood that people don't even know about.

How Rip Micheals chose his guests

How did you end up connecting with all these people? Are all these celebrities your friends? Or did they come out of the woodwork to find you once they heard what was going on?

These are my friends. Down from Cardi B to Shaq to Nick Cannon, these are all people I literally got on the phone with and was like, "Hey, let's go shoot a show together. I got this crazy idea, and I think it's going to go, and I think that everybody needs to see this." And they were like, "Hey, I'm down. I would love to show people Slutty Vegan, and I would love to show people these things." 

It turned into a phenomenon. It was actually sad that I had so many friends that wanted to do it in this season. I didn't get to do as many friends — Cardi didn't get to do it this season. Awkwafina didn't get to do it this season. Michael B. Jordan didn't get to do it. But they're all going to be ready for Season 2.

The future of Urban Eats & Treats

There is a Season 2 in the works, then?

Oh my god, yes. The response has been phenomenal, and it's definitely going to be bigger stars, bigger restaurants, more jokes, more insight. It's not going to stop.

From this past season, was there one particular restaurant or city that stood out among the others?

Everything stood out because Shaq ... I would never expect Shaquille O'Neal to take me to a vegan restaurant. It's Shaq. He owns 50,000 Papa Johns and steakhouses, so I assumed he was going to take me to one of his restaurants. But to find out that he actually cheats, and his cheat is actually eating healthy ... His cheat is going to a place called Slutty Vegan, and it was the most amazing vegan burger I've ever had. It was made with Impossible, and I'm telling you, it put Burger King to shame. It was amazing and a different experience — vegan bacon, vegan chicken, pulled pork vegan. I'm like, "I didn't know you could do such things with vegetables." It was amazing.

Rip Micheal's version of the best burger

For you personally, what makes a good burger?

What makes a good burger for me is the combination of flavors. I like different flavors on my burger. Don't get me wrong — I'm from the Midwest, so I do enjoy a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. But when you start doing different types of cheeses, and I have an avocado and different types of buns ... Hawaiian bread on a burger? Oh my god, it's amazing. I don't know if you've ever had it. That's what Slutty [Vegan does] — those Hawaiian rolls, and they make it into their bun and it's amazing, mixed with the jalapeños and the vegan bacon. It's amazing — those textures, those different flavors ... With different flavors you can eat a rock. I believe you could season a rock and it'll taste good.

Coming to this show, what was your personal relationship with food? It sounds like you do love a good restaurant. But how did your relationship with this all start?

Being that I actually cook in my own restaurant ... I'm a single father, so it started for me cooking with my daughter. Coming from a mixed background myself, mixing these different ... in my culture and adding different things, from being Spanish and Black and adding these different things and cooking in the household. I'm like, "People like this." We were the first restaurant in Long Island to start doing boil bags because my mom is from Louisiana.

We actually start doing that now. When you look at restaurants, you can see I'm in a restaurant right now. I'm in Havana Central having a meeting about bringing some stuff here to them. This is located in the Bronx. So I'm always surrounded by food. I'm not saying that because I'm a plus-size person because that's the new look. I don't consider myself plus. I say multiplication. I've always had that. Seeing all these different infusions ... I had a love of food since I was a kid.

Micheals' secret ingredients

When it comes to cooking, do you have a particular ingredient that's your go-to or your secret ingredient?

Oh, I couldn't tell you that. But there's certain things that — being Spanish or being Black — every culture's going to use. If you're Spanish, you're going to put some adobo or some sofrito. If you grow up in an urban area, I hate to say it — you are going to put some of that Lawry seasoning salt on it. It goes hand-in-hand. If you are from Chicago, you are going to put jalapeños and banana peppers and pickles on your hot dog with a tomato. Your environment calls for certain things. But my go-to would definitely be onion powder. I'm a huge [fan of] onion powder and garlic powder. My secret ingredient is a splash of lemon pepper when I do wings or crab legs.

How Rip Micheals chose the locales on Urban Eats & Treats

While you were trying to think about the show, there were all these friends and all these places that you thought about. How did you go about picking out the cities or the flavors that you ended up showcasing? How'd that work?

After I came up with this idea and I was like, "We're going to help all these businesses and we're going to change the narrative. We're going to show people that we do all these things," then I went to whatever city they were in. Russell Peters, for instance. I thought he was going to take me to Canada, but he took me to California. I flew into every city. I allowed the artists to showcase where they wanted to take me and what they wanted to showcase because I wanted to experience it myself. A lot of the things that happened in Atlanta is because they wanted to be in Atlanta and this is their restaurant. And if it was LA, I was flying to LA. I was going wherever the food takes me.

The funniest moments no one saw on Urban Eats & Treats

What were your favorite moments from the show that didn't make the final edit?

It's so many. We're going to release a lot of bonus footage that you didn't see, like when I was with Russell [Peters]. Russell's interview was funny as well. That was a really good one. I would say [Shaquille O'Neal]. There's a couple of outro things that Shaq did that we had to reshoot because [of] Shaq. I don't know if you understand how funny Shaq really is. Shaq should be a comedian. I know [rapper] T.I.'s doing comedy, but Shaq should be a comedian with the funny things that he was saying. Some of his moments when he wouldn't go in the kitchen ... He didn't want to cook, and he's like, "I haven't cooked ever in my life, so I'm not going to start now," and all he makes is ramen. It's trying to get Shaq to cook that we cut out. [That] was very funny.

Another one — Tamar Braxton. Oh my god. She was so flirtatious. Forget the chicken breast – she was touching my breast. We probably had to cut that out. That was super funny. And the fact that everybody felt they needed to leave me with the bill ... I didn't expect that. That was absolutely not planned. I thought that since people were taking me to their restaurants, they were paying. But it turned out celebrities hate to pay for stuff, and I did not know that.

Who paid for the meals?

That's brutal.

They were like, "You invited me, so you got to pay." And I was like, "But it's your ... Okay. Whatever." So I ended up paying for every single meal, and I didn't expect that. I thought that was hilarious.

Was the company cool with that?

I personally paid for it. Big shout-out to HARTBEAT and Kevin [Hart] because I shot these shows myself and produced them, and they distributed it to all these different networks. Big shout-out to Peacock and Tubi and Roku and Fubo and all these different networks. It's in over a hundred million homes and LOL — HARTBEAT. It used to be LOL; it's HARTBEAT now. I always got to say that they switched up. But they distributed [the show], and it's everywhere.

You came to all these networks with a fully formed product, then. This was all from your own pocketbook?

Yes. I saw the idea, and I knew people wouldn't get it until I shot it, because trying to explain to people, "It's going to be this and this," and they're like, "Sounds great." When I first showed it to HARTBEAT and Kevin, he was like, "I want to do it" immediately. That was a blessing from God himself. I was like, "This is amazing." He saw the trailer and the first episode; he couldn't believe it.

Which stars didn't make the cut

Were there any locales or cities that didn't make the cut? I know that you have stuff planned for the second season, but for this one, did every location and every person get used? Or are you going to save some of them for the next season in this same shooting season?

You got to see the next season. [There's] a couple of things we got in the works that we didn't get a chance to air, but they're definitely going to air in the second season. You going to see the Cardi [B] thing that we didn't get a chance to use because Cardi was pregnant at the time, so we couldn't use a lot of the footage. That's a lot of the stuff that we didn't get a chance to use. You're going to see that footage. You're going to see the Anthony thing. You're going to see a lot of different people and things you wouldn't expect from the first season. It gets so much better. The second season is amazing. The personalness of it ... you're going to see a lot of that that you didn't see on the first season.

The most unexpected moment on Urban Eats & Treats

You had touched on this a bit, too, but what was the most unexpected thing that you ran into in the first season?

[DJ] Envy taking me to this very eclectic steakhouse. It was a mafia-type steakhouse because they had hidden rooms and secret doors. It looked like this is where Al Capone and everybody ate. I was like, "Wow." They had secret rooms, and they had the menu. The steak was aged. I didn't expect Envy to take me there. Then, Envy is so open about his relationship with his wife, and to tell me all the things that he told me when we sat down ... That's another thing that makes "Urban Eats & Treats" so good. 

When you sit down and you break bread with someone, they expose themselves. That closeness that you get from having a meal with someone allows them to be super vulnerable. How vulnerable Envy was, [that] was amazing. It was amazing talking about his marriage, how it didn't work, it worked, and how they stayed together. It even turned into a book after that. You can see how us talking turned into a huge book and a phenomenon. He's everywhere talking about it on every talk show. We had it first on "Urban Eats & Treats."

How different Season 2 will look

Looking forward also to the second season, do you want to try to tweak the formula a bit? Or is it going to be a continuation? Do you want to have it more focused on the people, more on the food, or how are you thinking about that?

I'm going to get them on the second season to get in that kitchen and get nitty-gritty. I want them to be dirty down in it, cooking the dish and trying to replicate it. You're not going to just eat this next season. We going in. They going to actually cook. We going to see how it's cooked. They going to get their hands dirty this time. That's what I want to do.

I always wanted to see Awkwafina cook, so I'm glad you're finally making it happen.

Awkwafina ... I'm really sad that our scheduling didn't work as well because she was shooting so many movies at the time. But oh my gosh, she locked in. She doesn't cook at all. She doesn't cook a little bit. Nothing. So to see her get in there and smash and cook, it's going to be so much fun. It's going to add another dimension.

How the experience changed Rip Micheals' relationship with food

After going through this entire experience, has your relationship with food changed at all?

I have a deeper appreciation for it because a lot of fusions that are happening I wasn't aware of. I wasn't aware that there is a Japanese-Mexican fusion where they're taking sushi and they're making burritos out of it. I was like, "Oh my god, this is amazing." It's in Canada, too, now. They got this huge thing that's ... I was like, "Whoa. Even Canada." What do you call it? The poutine? Is that what you guys call it?

Yeah, they have the poutine up here.

All these fusions really shocked me. I'm seeing a Jamaican-Mexican restaurant, and I was like, "This is ... jerk burrito?" All these fusions and these different flavors have been something to see and witness and have shocked me. Some of the things you can mix and actually turn out great — things that you wouldn't believe.

I can't wait for them to have the jerk poutine. That's going to be the next thing one day.

Yeah. There you go. You spoke it into existence.

Micheals' food bucket list

Do you have a food bucket list? Do you have a chef that you'd one day like to have cook for you at this point?

To cook for me? I would like not so much cooking for but to cook with. I would love someone to cook with. I would love to cook with Guy Fieri. I would love for him to cook with me because he does what I do ... [gestures to surroundings] See, this is Havana Central right now. We doing another [with] restaurants. That's how deep I am into this restaurant stuff. That's one of the goals. To see me and Guy in the kitchen cooking, throwing down ... because we taste so much and we see so much ... Us preparing a dish together, that would be my go-to. That's my bucket [list].

Did you ever have any relationship with Guy's other projects?

No. I don't even know Guy — I've just known his show. I've watched "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." I'm a fan of him and his spiked hair and his, "We're going to a city near you!" I've never met him. I would be honored. I'm comedian-based more than anything, so you name a comedian, I know them. 

This is my first time actually being vulnerable and stepping into the food realm, because as a father, I'm a single father and I raised my daughter by myself. That's where my love of cooking came from. I've been raising my daughter since she was two years old and trying to always surprise her and cook for her. When you're a single parent, [you] try to make whatever your daughter can think [of]. She would be like, "Oh, I want a cake," and I [had] never made a cake. It forced me to learn how to prepare so many different things. This is the first time I'm sharing something that's personal with my daughter to the world.

Micheals' go-to recipe his daughter loves

Does your daughter have a go-to thing that you cook for her that is her favorite meal?

Jambalaya – [she loves] my jambalaya. My jambalaya is to die for. I think even in Louisiana it trumps, because my mom's from Louisiana, and she sounds like the Popeye's lady when she speaks. She go, "Oh, Lord, you going to love my son's chicken." Definitely my jambalaya. I got married recently, so I've been cooking a lot of Indian food. My wife's Indian, so I've been cooking a lot of Indian and Guyanese dishes and infusing them with stuff and learning these different spices that they have.

There's not a restaurant at this point that you still have on your bucket list?

It used to be Peter Luger, and I finally went and ate Peter Luger's. I would say Salt Bae. I've not been to Salt Bae yet; I definitely want to try Salt Bae. Something about holding the salt up like this that I don't know ... I heard that it flavors it better if you drop it. The higher you drop it, the more it is. I made it into a TikTok where I drop seasoning from different rooftops and see how far I can drop it.

That's going to be the future. That's like the opening of Season 2, I bet.

Me on the top of the Sears Tower dropping seasoning on a steak on the first floor.

Rip Micheals in Peter Luger

How was your Peter Luger experience? Did that live up to expectations?

It was absolutely amazing. I stumbled on Peter Luger by mistake, actually. I didn't realize I was in Peter Luger. I went into it, and it was funny because I went to the one in Great Neck, not the most famous one in Brooklyn. I went to one in Great Neck, and it's more like a little ... It's like a mom-and-pop. When I get in there, there are no prices on the menu. I was like, "I'll have a steak." And they're like, "Are you sure?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure."

I get it, and it's the best steak I've ever had in my entire life. It's aged. It's in a wooden crate. Then, I realize once I get the bill, and I see that this bill is enormous because they ask you for things ... In a fancy restaurant, they ask you for things, but they don't tell you that they cost. They be like, "Would you like any sides?" I'm thinking, "Yeah, of course. It comes with sides." No. I came out of there with a 400-dollar bill for one person. I was like, "Yes." And they were like, "This is Peter Luger." I was like, "Wow, makes sense." That was my bucket list.

Rip Micheals' favorite fast food order

At least paying the bill for every single one of your friends on the show prepared you for that one.

No, it did not prepare me for that. I'm thinking they're ordering so much ... If you look at the episodes — I don't know if you've seen them all, but they ordered tons of stuff. And I'm like, "They just trying to hook me up and taste everything." If I knew I was paying for it, I would've tried the salad. It would've been salad and bread. It would've been a totally different film.

On the total flip side of that, when you're not feeling like going all out, do you have a fast food place that you love to hit up?

Chipotle – I can eat every single day. My daughter loves Chipotle so much [that] she got a job there. I don't even think she does it for the pay ... She gets to get a free bowl every day. I probably eat Chipotle every single day. My favorite go-to is Mexican food. That's my favorite fast food restaurant, and then Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets.

What's your Chipotle go-to order?

Don't laugh — it's the [sofritas] quesadilla. That vegan quesadilla is amazing. You got to order it mobile style because if you order it mobile, they give you the sour cream, the lettuce, and everything on the side. If you order regular, they just wrap it and fold it. But if you order it mobile, they give you three options for sides, and it comes for free. Always order mobile.

Rip Micheal's favorite fast food hacks

That's a solid secret Chipotle hack right there.

Subway – another hack. If you do go to Subway, they will give you as much lettuce, tomato, and vegetables as you possibly want. If you're in the mood for a salad, go to Subway, order a sandwich, and pile on all the lettuce. I take the bread and I throw it away and I got five salads.

Do you have any other hacks?

Another Chipotle hack — I wasn't always affluent. Back in the day, you go to Chipotle, and they didn't charge you for extra condiments either. What you do is you get one bowl, put a lot of condiments on it, ask for extra chicken, steak, or whatever you want, and then get the soft shells on the side. They're only a dollar. You take one bowl and make seven tacos out of it for 12 bucks. I can always tell you how to eat on a budget. I can definitely figure out the system to save money.

When to look for Season 2 of Urban Eats & Treats

Season 2 is going to be coming up. There's not a date on that yet, though, is there?

No, because I'm in a shoot. I'm finishing up the "Wild 'N Out" tour, and then I have the "Off the Rip" tour and the "Off the Rip" special — we just finished wrapping up all that. That's the "Off the Rip" sketch show where it's me, Cardi [B], and all these different people. As soon as I get all that done, then I'm going to slate time to go do it. The tour takes so much because it's nonstop.

For you personally, what's the next project that's coming up in your timeline?

The next project after the tour ... I got another cooking show in the food space, because even though I'm being a comedian, I still go to these cities and I still try to find restaurants. I just did Off the Hook Comedy Club in Naples, and I went around all Naples, Florida, trying to find great, different fusions. It's a difficult time to find fusions because it's a really rich, old area. Judge Judy lives there. It's a whole huge retirement community. But I did find some great spaces and things and fusions that you would not think are in Naples. 

My next projects would be ... I'm shooting my hour special at the Apollo this summer. Then, I got another cooking thing, where it's a cooking-dating show that we're about to start shooting along with Season 2. It's the funniest show ever. You'd never think dating and a cooking show go together, but this thing that I've fused is amazing.

When to look for Micheals' next project

Do you know who's going to be releasing that one?

I'm going to distribute it [with] the same team I'm with right now. HARTBEAT is so great to me. I love bringing all my projects to them because they believed in what I'm doing. HARTBEAT Studios, they have a vision and they see it. A lot of people don't see it, and [HARTBEAT is] willing to ride with you. I thank them and I will always lean towards them with whatever I have to do. I'm going to go there first until they start telling me no, like, "Stop bringing us all these shows!"

Look for the fall. By the fall, you'll have these things, and we can definitely set up another interview and I'll give you the exclusive in the fall.

Make sure to catch Rip Micheals' "Urban Eats & Treats" on Tubi, and keep an eye out for the comedian's next special out soon.