BJ Novak Says His Celebrity Friends Are ‘Relieved’ When He Suggests Fast Food Restaurant Over ‘Cool New Place’

“I think that’s often where people secretly want to go,” says Novak, who joins chef Tim Hollingsworth for a new Roku special, “Chain Food: All-Star Dishes.”

<p>Courtesy of The Roku Channel</p>
<p> Chef Tim Hollingsworth (left) and BJ Novak” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/″/><noscript><img alt=Courtesy of The Roku Channel

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Courtesy of The Roku Channel

Chef Tim Hollingsworth (left) and BJ Novak

When it comes to his famous friends, BJ Novak says “everyone” is a fan of fast food.

“I think that’s often where people secretly want to go, the fast food place or the familiar place,” he says. Desk One alumnus tells PEOPLE, “There are times when you want to go to the cool new place, but deep down you’d rather be at Chili’s or McDonald’s. And every time I offer that, people are so happy and relieved.”

In 2021, Novak teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Tim Hollingsworth to launch an immersive culinary experience called Chain, which features new takes on fast-food and casual-dining favorites. Then, in December 2023, the duo launched ChainFEST, the first-ever chain food festival, which they documented for a new Roku Original special.

In Chain Food: star dishes (streaming July 12) viewers will also see Hollingsworth reimagine eight popular items from Chili’s, Red Robin, Panda Express, Jack in the Box, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Dunkin’. Celebrity guests making appearances include Chrissy Teigen, Rachel Bilson and Josh Peck.

Reflecting on the popularity of fast food, Novak says, “It’s a great unifier.”

“We all grew up with it. It’s the same all over the country, often all over the world, and they’re sort of the greatest hits. It’s almost like jokes or folk songs that evolve over time. It’s like the world focuses on the things that everyone is attracted to, and it’s almost like McDonald’s is sort of a collective imagination.”

“And then it was perfected and turned into nostalgic memories for everyone,” he adds.

For Hollingsworth, Chain offers a chance to recreate his first culinary memory: eating a skillet pizza at Pizza Hut during a flash flood in Houston.

“I still remember the red cups, the Tiffany lamps, my childhood and the smell of buttery pan pizza crust,” says Hollingsworth, who also runs the Los Angeles restaurant Otium.

Novak says there are two restaurants that evoke nostalgia from his childhood.

“It’s on par with eating pancakes at 11 p.m. at IHOP when I was a teenager, it was like the best feeling in the world,” he says. “And then my best friend, Amir, worked at Dunkin’ Donuts when I was growing up, outside of Boston, and I loved visiting him when he was closing and we could take home all the free donuts.”

“And then we would throw them at his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend’s house,” Novak adds with a laugh.

These days, the actor has some new favorites, and unsurprisingly, one of them is West Coast fast food joint In-N-Out, beloved by Hollywood stars.

<p>Courtesy of The Roku Channel</p>
<p> ChainFEST” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MQ–/″/><noscript><img alt=Courtesy of The Roku Channel

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Courtesy of The Roku Channel


Related: Why Jimmy Kimmel Says Celebrities Eating at In-N-Out After Awards Shows Is Now a Tradition (Exclusive)

“In-N-Out really means a lot to me,” he says. “When I moved to California, it kind of became my new religion.”

Novak is also a big fan of Starbucks for his caffeine fix, as he loves the chain’s consistency.

“I’m a big coffee drinker, and caffeine is a very powerful drug, so I like to know that the exact amount I drink every day is exactly the same,” he explains. “That way, I know that if I’m traveling—it’s like taking my daily vitamin—the Starbucks Venti will be exactly the same anywhere in the world.”

“I don’t want some gimmicky drug maker giving me a random amount of stimulants,” he jokes.

Hollingsworth’s favorite fast food restaurant is Taco Bell: “I don’t really know why, but it’s one of those places that I’ve been to for so many years in my life, and it’s always this guilty pleasure for me to come home late from work one night and call my wife and say, ‘Hey, do you want to go to Taco Bell?'”

Hollingsworth worked at the French Laundry for 13 years, including four years as a chef. He says his Taco Bell habit didn’t stop even when he cooked at the iconic, upscale California restaurant.

“I didn’t eat a lot of fast food during that time, but I always ate at Taco Bell,” he says. “That was my only stop. I would get the same thing every time. It was two Taco Supremes, Nacho Bell Grandes with added jalapeños, a Brisk iced tea, cinnamon twists, and that’s still my go-to order today.”

<p>Jon Kopaloff/Getty</p>
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Jon Kopaloff/Getty

Tim Hollingsworth and BJ Novak

Related: Taco Bell’s New Crunchwrap Supreme and Tostada Have 16x the Size of Cheez-Its

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Fast food connoisseurs are known for customizing their meals with special menu tricks — and the duo also gave their take on some of their favorites.

“Ordering well-done fries at In-N-Out is a good tip,” Novak says. “At McDonald’s, if they ask you, ‘What sauce do you get on your McNuggets?’ you say, ‘All of them.’ That’s the key. But I think the motto is, ‘Just ask for what you want.’”

“I would say for me it’s the grilled onions at In-N-Out and the well-done fries, for sure,” says Hollingsworth, who adds that he sometimes gets into “a little argument” at the McDonald’s drive-thru.

“I love their caramel sundaes, but when I ask for a caramel McFlurry, they’re like, ‘Oh, we don’t have that.’ I’m like, ‘But you can do it because you have everything you need?’ Sometimes it doesn’t work, but most of the time it does.”

Chain Food: star dishes will be available to stream on The Roku Channel on July 12.

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