Meet James Cunningham, Host of Cooking Channel's Eat St.

By: Alison Sickelka

James Cunningham, stand-up comedian and television personality, is the host of Cooking Channel's new show Eat St, a lip-smacking celebration of North America's tastiest, messiest and most irresistible street food. You might recognize him from one of the many shows he's been featured on,  including Last Comic Standing, Just for Laughs, Comedy Inc., and his award-winning financial literacy program, Funny Money. He's thrilled about his new gig, as he loves to eat but can't cook to save his life.

We caught up with James to get his take on the food truck craze and to find out what's the best thing he's ever ate.

1. Did you eat at food trucks often before signing on to host Eat St.?

Up until recently the most common offerings you would find on the street were your standard “street meat,” hamburgers, and French fries. This explosion of new gourmet street fare is a game changer. I used to grab the old hot dog after a set at a comedy club at 1 a.m., but that was about it.

The amount of incredible food being served out of a cart or truck now is mind-boggling. Portland alone has 400 trucks and carts! I’m a huge street food connoisseur now, and I’m rapidly turning all my friends into one as well!

2. What is the most interesting thing you’ve eaten while dining out (food truck or restaurant)?

Crow…because every time I say: “ This is the best thing I’ve eaten,” I go to another city and find another amazing thing being served up! I cannot believe the incredible food coming off these carts and trucks: Goan Indian cuisine, lobster rolls, gourmet grill cheese, Korean barbecue fusion tacos, and ice cream rolled in wasabi, to just name a few!

3. Did you pick up any bad eating habits while working as a stand-up comedian?

When you’re on the road so often, fast food is the easiest choice because it is so readily available in airports and along highways.

As you mature as a comedian, your food tastes mature as well. You can always spot the new comic on the road because while the headliner and MC are eating a nice risotto or chicken dish the new guy is sitting on the couch eating a full tub of ice cream with a spoon.

4. When you aren’t traveling, do you have a go-to dish for when you have to cook?

Oh yes, I believe it is called macaroni and cheese. If I didn’t have a girlfriend, I would probably starve! I think I learned to be funny early in life, so people would invite me to dinner parties.

5. Are you a breakfast man?

Absolutely! Even though most comedy shows run late into the evening, I am a total morning person. I love a hearty breakfast. I eat a lot of oatmeal with different fruits or nuts, but once in awhile you can’t beat a good eggs benny with friends.

6. What city do you think has the most creativity happening in their food scene right now?

Easily Beijing, China. Actually I don’t know that for sure but I’ve always wanted to go and I’m trying to convince the producers to do an “international” season of Eat St.

I have to say that I am a bit biased because I spend a lot of time in New York. NYC is such a food city – any type of cuisine you could ever possibly want is just a cab ride away and New Yorkers are so open to new foods and flavors.

But I do have to give a shout out to the West Coast. Between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland there are some great things going on. I think a lot of that has to do with the heavy influence of Asian fusion mixed with Southwest cuisine; the Korean short rib soft taco is a prime example of that -- sooo good!

7. Coffee or tea?

Oh coffee – coffee, most definitely coffee! I have a Nespresso machine that just rocks my world!

8. What’s your drink order at a bar?

Funny you ask that because the show’s director (Peter Waal), the cameraman (Shane Geddes) and I have developed a ritual after we finish up a shoot. Peter is really passionate about a good cocktail, so we pile the gear into the production van and go in search of one after we wrap. I used to be a classic “Gin and Tonic” man but now that’s changed. Having traveled so much in the Southwest we have all become fans of a well made Margarita (the key ingredient being an ultra fresh lime!)

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