Weird Rules That The Playboy Mansion Had About Food

For many years, the Playboy Mansion was the home of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and the location of many star-studded and uninhibited parties. It was also the backdrop for the 2000s reality series "The Girls Next Door," which followed Hefner and a few of his girlfriends and Playmates who also lived in the mansion. While there is a darker side to the legacy of Playboy and its controversial founder (via People), it is certain that calling the Playboy Mansion "home" came with plenty of perks — and nearly just as many rules. 

Such rules definitely extended into the kitchen. Sure, it sounds like a dream to live in a mansion with 24/7 staff to cater to your every craving, but the truth is that it didn't always work out that way. These are some of the strangest rules about food at the Playboy Mansion and in Hefner's life that give insight into what mansion life was like, at least when it was mealtime. 

Scratch-made desserts were always on hand

Hefner's personal diet is something we'll delve into shortly, but we feel it's only appropriate to start with dessert. Hefner was a man who loved sweets, and so the Playboy Mansion head chef of 25 years, William S. Bloxsom-Carter, always made sure there were plenty of goodies in stock at all times. The mansion even had a bakery case filled with pies, cakes, and other treats. What's more, it was all made from scratch. "You should see his little cookie drawer," Bloxsom-Carter told Gourmet in 2021. "It's actually not all that little."

Hefner's drawer of desserts was apparently filled with anything and everything that someone with a sweet tooth could desire. There were peanut butter and jelly cookies, Rice Krispies treats, and brownies, for starters. Hefner's all-time favorites were crispy oatmeal cookies, so Bloxsom-Carter's staff always made sure those were in stock in Hef's drawer. 

There were always grapefruits in the mansion

Hef's diet didn't solely consist of cookies and cakes, and so Bloxsom-Carter had to find a balance between Hef's demands and making sure the boss had a well-balanced diet. The chef told Haute Living that Hefner's diet was pretty routine. "He has half a grapefruit every day," Bloxsom-Carter said. Yet Hefner's healthy breakfast may have started and ended at that piece of citrus. 

Bloxsom-Carter also told Gourmet that Hefner's grapefruit was paired with a jelly donut from the popular donut chain, Winchell's. While it's a pretty tasty-sounding meal and one that's easy to replicate if you feel so inclined, it's probably not the healthiest way to get your first meal of the day in, every single day. Then again, Hefner lived until he was 91 years old, as per the New York Times, so who are we to judge his breakfast of choice?

The kitchen kept lamb chops in stock

Hefner's favorite food, hands down, was nothing more complicated than a plate of lamb chops. Bloxsom-Carter told Gourmet that he has his signature lamb chop dinner at least once a week. "The lambs in Colorado and California are very worried about Mr. Hefner," the chef joked. 

The meal included four freshly cut lamb chops, an accompanying sauce, a baked potato, peas, a sliced tomato, and a side of apple sauce. The bones of the lamb chops had to face the center of the plate, a dab of sauce was to be delicately drizzled onto each chop, and the potato could not have butter inside or touch the sauce, for instance.

Aside from being a staple meal for Hefner, lamb chops were also often served during the mansion parties as part of a massive spread. Hopefully other diners weren't quite so picky about plating.

Eggs required vigorous inspection

Managing the grocery list for the Playboy Mansion was nothing short of monumental. However, it was even more intense considering the high standards for everything that came in and out of the kitchen. Bloxsom-Carter was all about detail during his regime, making sure that quality control was paramount in everything from the ingredients in the refrigerator to the uniforms of his employees. According to Gourmet, staff would fill out logs every eight hours to keep the kitchen a well-oiled machine. 

One of the major quality control checks on the staff duty roster was a fresh egg inspection (via Gourmet). The shells of the eggs were pierced with a thermometer to ensure they were delivered to the mansion within the safe temperature range of 38 to 40 degrees. With all of the fresh baked goods at the Playboy Mansion, we imagine there were a lot of eggs to inspect. 

Playboy Mansion meal times were untraditional

Everything at the Playboy Mansion ran on Hugh Hefner's personal timeframe, which was a pretty unique day-to-day operation, to say the least. His schedule became the routine for his girlfriends, staff, and guests to follow — or deviate from at their peril. One especially notable aspect of this schedule was Hef's preferred meal times. Breakfast would be served at the relatively late time of 10:30 or 11:30 a.m., as Bloxsom-Carter told Haute Living. Lunch was up in the air, but, if it happened, it usually didn't hit tables until 5:30 p.m. — normally dinner time in other households.

Dinner was an even later affair for Hefner, who tended to order his final meal of the day around 10:30 p.m. Hefner was known as a guy who would always be wearing pajamas with a suit jacket, so perhaps the concept of time was totally different for the magazine mogul. 

Lunch was the least important meal

As previously mentioned, lunch was a bit of an oddball concept at the Playboy Mansion. In truth, the "meal" was more like a pre-dinner snack meant to hold Hefner over until his late-night dinner, if he even ate it at all. An interview with Vanity Fair revealed that Hefner rarely ate lunch, given how much he liked to sleep in. When he sat down for the interview, Hefner ordered a slice of banana cream pie with a glass of milk. Meanwhile, he offered his guest a choice of three-course options, although the Vanity Fair reporter opted for a salad. 

All told, Hugh Hefner obviously put more emphasis on consuming a fairly hearty dinner, so lunch just wasn't that big of a deal. He pinned the longstanding habit on his roots. "My folks were from Nebraska," Hefner told Vanity Fair. "I was raised on Midwestern vittles."

Seating at meals got complicated

The Playboy Mansion had a rotating door of guests, from Playmates to Hefner's high-status friends. It may seem like it would be a free-for-all, especially around meal times, but Hefner did not hesitate to exert his power by dictating where everyone sat. Neither was it an undertaking he took lightly. 

Playmate twins Carla and Melissa Howe spoke to Mirror explained that the sitting chart was Hefner's way of penalizing Playmates who had broken the rules, such as acting inappropriately on social media or otherwise breaking Hef's rather strict code of conduct. 

Hefner's dining room had three tables — one where he sat with his guests of honor, another where his family sat, and a third for anyone left. "In another room beside the kitchen is the table for the more lowly guests, the nobodies and the girls who've annoyed him," Melissa explained. "Hef decides the seating plan every day and no one wants to end up on that third table."

Hef had a personalized menu

Hefner may have been the most complicated yet simple dinner guest of all time. He was proudly old fashioned and liked to enjoy what he liked. That means he wanted everything exactly the way he anticipated it, down to the recipe and the plating of his standard meals. 

To make things a little easier on kitchen staff, Hefner was given a personalized menu of 31 meals that he would be able to order any time of the day, Bloxsom-Carter told Gourmet. It was similar to ordering from a fast food restaurant, with Hefner being able to put in his request by number. "So he can call down to the kitchen and say, 'I'd like the number 6 [grilled cheese sandwich, potato chips, apple sauce, and two oatmeal cookies], or the number 21 [fried chicken strips, baked potato, caper dip, and two oatmeal cookies]," the head chef said. 

Hef's family had their own menu

Luckily for Hefner's family members, they weren't forced to order from the patriarch's unique and sometimes finicky line-up of meals. His wife Kimberly and his son also had their own personalized menu. Kimberly's included 25 items with many Asian and Italian-inspired plates, Bloxsom-Carter told the Tampa Bay Times. At the time of the interview, Hefner's son Marston was approaching his first birthday. Even though he was just a baby, he also had his own recipe book. "There's only one recipe in it yet, but it's a great one for a muffin with cracked wheat and bananas," the chef said. 

Even though Hefner and his family got to enjoy virtually any craving they desired, Bloxsom-Carter tried to make everything as healthy as possible. "Low fat, no cream soups, everything fresh, no freezer meat. We stay away from butter and use lots of natural reductions instead," he said.

Playboy Mansion guests ate from a different list

For guests at the Playboy Mansion, Hefner liked to show off. Indeed, he could be a little extra when it came to entertaining. This meant that they weren't stuck eating the boss' favorite Midwestern-inspired meals every time they entered the gates for a party or movie night.

Instead, guests were treated to over the top meals and buffets. It was so important to Hef to keep up culinary appearances that even the regular weekend movie night crowd dined like royalty. The spread included steak, lobster, roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and, of course, dessert. As Monika Henreid, a former Playboy Mansion guest, told The Morning Call, it wasn't really about the food for Hefner, but the time had by guests. "For him the enjoyment was watching other people enjoy themselves. He wanted them to have a glass of Champagne and a good dinner."

Hef demanded homecooked meals even at restaurants

Hefner's preference for home-cooked meals was practically an obsession. He would clearly enjoy going out to fancy restaurants and clubs with his entourage of celebrity friends and Playmates, but also nearly always preferred to eat at home. If that wasn't possible, mansion staff would often send food and preparation instructions to a restaurant before Hefner arrived so that he could eat what he liked regardless of location.  "[The models] pick from the menu, but I have lamb chops and a baked potato sent in from the mansion," Hefner said (via The Telegraph). 

Despite his rather picky ways, Hefner did make exceptions, at least image-wise. In 2003, he starred in a Carl's Jr. commercial, where he was shown poking fun at his ultimate bachelor lifestyle (via Adweek). Whether or not he actually enjoyed eating burgers and fries from Carl's Jr. remains a mystery, however.

Playmates were encourged to eat healthy

Playmates could enjoy the pleasures of mansion life, ordering whatever they wanted to eat on short notice. Bloxson-Carter told Bloomberg that it wasn't always easy to encourage them to eat a well-balanced diet, however. "We try to make them healthy," he explained. "It doesn't always work out." 

"The Girls Next Door" stars Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson interviewed each other for Us Weekly about their food habits. The pair proclaimed their love for BLTs, Egg McMuffins, and chips like Flamin' Hot Cheetos. They also proudly stated their dislike of fad diets, offering another side to Bloxson-Carter's sentiments about Playmate meals (via Oh No They Didn't). 

To be fair, Hefner's personal valet said the boss wasn't the healthiest eater. ""He drank around 35, 40 Pepsis a day," Stefan Tetenbaum told Us Weekly. "He ate mostly M&M's, two or three pounds a day, and red licorice."

The kitchen fed the Playboy Mansion's massive staff

It's safe to say that the Playboy Mansion kitchen staff had their hands full, with a meal list that included guests, Playmates, and the entire staff of the mansion. "We're contract feeders to the employees. That's about 100 to 110 meals every 24 hours," Bloxsom-Carter told the Tampa Bay Times. "Also we do catering for the Hefners when they eat away from the property, for instance at the Playboy Jazz Festival." 

To make such a massive catering operation succeed, the Playboy Mansion kitchen staff were a well-oiled machine that never shut down. The kitchen was open at all hours, every day of the week, ready and willing to make just about any meal that a guest or resident could dream up. To make that work, the kitchen crew had a full-time staff of 12 chefs. The food operation cost a whopping $1.2 million annually, according to Gourmet.

Recipes were based in Hef's childhood

It's pretty clear that Hefner was set in his ways, especially when it came to food. The recipes themselves were reminiscent of his mother's home cooking. Dishes like pot roast, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes were all inspired by his mother's recipes. A collection of Hefner's personal recipe books from the mansion contain instructions that were staples in the kitchen, many of which were "originally from Hugh Hefner's mother Grace Hefner' (via Julien's Auctions).

Another one of Hefner's favorite meals were his mom's famous ribs. The barbecue meal, which Hefner lovingly referred to as "Christmas dinner," included baby back ribs with Kansas City sauce, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. More specifically, Hefner wanted the ribs to be brushed with sauce at the last second and sliced in two, just like his mom used to serve it years ago (via 

Late night food runs were prohibited

The Playboy Mansion might sound like a free-for-all adult playground, but there were strict rules in place for the women who lived there. Most notably, they had a hard 9 p.m. curfew, Crystal Harris told Entertainment Tonight. That meant no late night partying, sleepovers away from the mansion, or late night fast food runs. "I just felt my world just kind of closing in on me. And that's when I just started realizing it wasn't for me," Harris said. "And with Hef, it's Hef's way, you know, or no way."

That sort of curfew meant the ladies couldn't sneak out for a late night Taco Bell run or a trip to the grocery store for cookies and ice cream. Sure, they were able to order at all hours from the mansion kitchen, but for many it proved to be a significant loss of freedom.

No food went to waste

It's easy to imagine a large scale food operation like the Playboy Mansion creating a lot of waste. After all, there's no way Hefner and his girlfriends would have been able to eat full drawers of cakes and cookies on a weekly basis before the baked goods went bad. 

Like everything in the kitchen, Bloxsom-Carter told Gourmet that dealing with leftovers was down to a science. Almost anything that had been left sitting for too long for human consumptions became homemade feed for the animals both in the Playboy Mansion and in Hefner's private zoo. Creatures like monkeys, birds, reptiles, and bunnies would get to snack on lobster, lamb chops, and whatever else Hef and his friends couldn't finish eating once their plates were cleared. Given his tastes, Hefner's collection of wild animals may have gotten to eat the fanciest slop in all of Los Angeles.

Kitchen staff couldn't befriend Playmates

The Playboy Mansion kitchen workers, like all its staff, were integral to the mansion's smooth operations, but their centrality didn't lead to serious connections with mansion residents. Stefan Tetenbaum, who worked as Hefner's valet for three years, said that staff were not only supposed to avoid making small talk with the girls, but were told to avoid making eye contact in general (via Us Weekly). "You're not their friend," he said. "You work for Mr. Hefner — you don't work for them."

Additionally, there were allegedly many hidden cameras and microphones around the property to keep an eye on everyone. Tetenbaum remembered that some women would try to ask staff for advice, but were concerned that the interactions would be recorded and that staff could lose their jobs. "We were just servants. Everybody else was invisible. He didn't want to know our names. He just gave us directions," the former valet said. 

Bunnies couldn't eat or drink while working

Hefner's particular rules surrounding food expanded well beyond the mansion grounds. In the 1960s and 1970s, Playboy clubs were popular late-night hangouts, remembered especially for scantily-clad Playboy Bunnies who waited on guests hand and foot. Bunnies would work shifts in the club and were instructed not to eat, drink, or chew gum while on duty. 

They weren't just forbidden to drink alcohol while on the clock — soft drinks, lemonade, and even water were verboten. If a Playboy Bunny was in view of any guests or key-holders at the club, they had to go without. They had to go behind the scenes to even get a sip of water, lest they ruin the mystique by staying hydrated. If these rules were broken, then the employees who were caught risked receiving a series of demerits on their record (via The Playboy Club Bunny Manual).