Aziz Ansari’s affinity for food has become an intractable part of the actor and comedian’s identity.
The release of the second season of Ansari’s Netflix show Master of None on May 12 takes his food obsession to new heights. In the new season, Ansari’s character Dev travels to Italy to pursue his greatest love: pasta. And much like in its first season, the series again pays homage to New York City’s food scene with many of its pivotal moments taking place in restaurants and bars throughout the city.
With celebrity chefs like David Chang among his friends, a lesson in Italian cooking with Mario Batali under his belt and countless posts of “food porn” dotting his Instagram, Ansari has established himself as a food connoisseur — just don’t call him a foodie.
Here’s a look at Ansari’s longstanding relationship with food.
The time he joked about fried chicken as an antidote to racism
It’s safe to say Ansari’s love of food blossomed during his childhood in South Carolina. In his 2012 standup special Dangerously Delicious, he notes that although growing up in a conservative state as the child of Indian Muslims had its difficult moments, there was a bright side: Southern food.
“Growing up in South Carolina’s kinda like, ‘Oh, did that guy just say the n-word? Ooo, fried chicken and biscuits! Never mind!’” he quips.
The time he failed to hide his bacon habit from his parents
Unlike his parents, who don’t eat pork for religious reasons, Ansari quite enjoys the “very tasty” meat, he told Conan O’Brien in 2015. Although he avoids eating pork in front of his parents, Ansari slipped up a few times when his parents visited him for two weeks — including the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich with which they caught him, red-handed, when he ran into them on the street. He lovingly blamed his transgressions on his then-girlfriend.
The time his love for food got him a ticket to Tokyo
In 2011, famous at the time for his standup work and role in Parks and Recreation, Ansari joined Chang and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy for a rollicking journey through Tokyo as part of a GQ feature. The three ate their way through the city, and Ansari was observed going into “sensory-deprivation mode” whenever he ate anything especially delicious.
The time he fell in love over cookies
For two years, the comedian dated chef Courtney McBroom, who told Food & Wine in 2015 that they met at Momofuku Milk Bar in Manhattan and later bonded over a treat called a Hokey Pokey cookie. The couple has since broken up.
The time he admitted to being a total food nerd
Ansari revealed many of his innermost thoughts on food in a recent 73 Questions interview with Vogue. Among them: He wants to learn to cook everything, can say “I’m hungry” in six languages, loves all sorts of tacos and thinks people who don’t care what they eat should be called “food bozos.”
The time his Parks and Recreation character nicknamed every type of food
As Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, Ansari played a small-town guy with dreams so big he wears red carpet on the inside of his shoes. Tom’s taste for the finer things inspires him to devise special names for his favorite foods, including “fry fry chicky chick” for fried chicken and “super water” for root beer.
The time his Master of None character chose pasta over his girlfriend
Pasta comes up frequently in Master of None. In the first season, Dev avoids using a pasta maker gifted to him by his girlfriend out of fear that he’s not a good enough cook. Eating pasta, however, is not a problem.
“I’m a man of many interests, but my true passion might be pasta,” Dev tells his girlfriend’s grandmother in one episode.
After breaking up with his girlfriend at the end of season 1, Dev looks to pasta to mend his broken heart with a trip to Italy.
The time his Master of None character learned to make tortellini like an Italian grandmother
Dev will no longer need his pasta maker after spending time learning how to do it by hand with a pasta-making grandma in Modena in season 2 of Master of None. Ansari’s real-life trip to Italy to film the show meant eating tons of pasta, of course, along with several other Italian delicacies.