the grub street diet

Joel Kim Booster Has Mastered ‘Blender Chicken’

“It’s an old-school bodybuilder thing that I saw on YouTube one time.”

“I don’t mind the taste and I don’t mind the texture.” Illustration: Ryan Inzana
“I don’t mind the taste and I don’t mind the texture.” Illustration: Ryan Inzana

Joel Kim Booster is booked and busy. In addition to performing at the first-ever Netflix Is a Joke Fest, the New York turned Los Angeles comedian is the writer and star of Fire Island, a Pride and Prejudice–esque romantic comedy co-starring his friend Bowen Yang. Our friends at Vulture have described the movie, which comes out on Hulu June 3, as like the Jane Austen novel but with “less bustles, more muscles.” That checks out: Booster’s diet is protein-heavy. When he’s not performing or writing, he’s indulging in the pleasant efficiency of “blender chicken” — something that everyone in his life wishes he’d stop immediately. 

Wednesday, April 20
I don’t normally eat breakfast. I have never liked it. I loathed it as a child and resented having it thrust on me as “the most important meal of the day,” something which I believe science has since proven to be false, or at the very least, an exaggeration. I refuse to check if that’s true.

I usually like to begin my day with a workout of some sort and I like to do so in a fasted state, for various reasons that have to do with burning excess fat or something equally dubious. This morning, like most mornings, I drank a quick pre-workout drink to wake me up. This is mostly in lieu of coffee, as despite its many claims to the contrary, my pre-workout drink is just water and caffeine and it gives me the boost I need to go to the gym. Any added benefit is purely psychosomatic. It’s basically just a fun, tasty way to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.

After the gym, I grab a protein shake: no banana and extra protein. I’ve hated bananas ever since I could remember, and only began eating them when they were mixed in this particular protein shake. Come to find out after drinking one of these shakes several times a week: I’m allergic to bananas. Oops! Anyway, I usually sub the banana for blueberries, but today the girl making the shake didn’t ask me if I wanted to do that, and maybe it’s the midwestern in me, but I never have the strength to ask if they don’t offer.

Throughout the week, the rest of my meals in the day are premade meals I get from a delivery service. I am hopeless in the kitchen. When I go grocery shopping, half the fresh ingredients end up rotting in my fridge, so while meal delivery probably seems very stupid and costly to you (don’t worry; I think so, too), it ends up being more cost effective for me.

Before meal-delivery services, I would eat pasta constantly. I have eaten so much pasta in my life. I’m actually really good at doctoring jarred pasta sauce. I do like to make it something else, sort of like a Chopped challenge — adding my own tomatoes or putting anchovies in the sauce, or something like that. I love Food Network. I’m addicted to Beat Bobby Flay. I love Chopped. Chopped has taught me a lot of basic skills for making sauces, like deglazing a pan and the order which you put ingredients in and stuff like that. During lockdown, I made my own cream sauces. I make a really good homemade mac ’n’ cheese.

I typically order the same meals each week, but this week I try something new: pork salsa verde. It’s just a few chunks of pork in a green sauce and some white rice to boot. The meal-delivery service also lets me know the exact macro breakdown of what I’m eating. I don’t count calories anymore, but I do like to know how much protein I’m eating each day so I can continue to be a big strong boy.

I also had one of those tiny cans of Diet Coke, which I hate but buy anyway. They’re never enough. I’m addicted to Diet Coke, just like my mom. Just like all our moms.

Doing my best to avoid writing the project I’m currently working on, so I turn to an old standby: a snack. In this case, it’s another tiny can of Diet Coke and some cheese wrapped in pepperoni. They came prewrapped because I know in my heart of hearts that even the simple act of wrapping a piece of cheese in pepperoni would be too much for me.

Soon it was dinnertime, which meant it was time for yet another prepackaged meal. We’re going Indian: chicken tikka masala. It’s my favorite meal that I get from this service, even though, like the pork salsa verde, it is mostly chunks of chicken in a fairly generic “Indian style” sauce and a side of white rice. But it tastes great and is a whopping 47 grams of protein.

Backstage at a 4/20-themed show, they had my favorite pizza: Domino’s Meat Lovers. Whatever they put in the crust is bad. I’m positive about that. But there’s something about the consistency of the crust and the sauce. I really do attribute so much of my palate going back to growing up poor in the Midwest. My family did it the best they could, but we weren’t eating amazing food. I learned really young that food doesn’t have to be expensive or complex for it to be good. I’m not ashamed of the way that I eat or how I eat. I like what I like.

I cursed myself for already eating dinner, but I ate a slice anyway, along with two breadsticks, which I dipped in the garlic butter. I’m not crazy.

Later, I bought my boyfriend an ice-cream bar from the gas station and got one for me, too. Our relationship is incredibly snack-based. Almost every single time we’re at his place during the week, I stop at the Rite Aid across the street and grab us something special to munch on while we hang.

Thursday, April 21
I immediately broke my no-breakfast rule by eating a chocolate chip cookie I found laying out on my boyfriend’s counter. I’m a study in contradictions. I also drank my pre-workout drink.  Post-workout, I drank my little shake. They didn’t ask about the fruit today, so no blueberries. Someday!

For lunch, it was back to my premade meals. This day’s was “Mongolian salmon,” which is fully an lol. What you have to understand about my meal-delivery service is that any gesture toward a specific culture usually means the sauce that comes with it has the flavor profile of a region, but specifically calling a plate with a nice piece of salmon, bok choy, and a comically small portion of rice “Mongolian” is kind of a stretch. Nevertheless, it looked and tasted great.

Forgot to take my Adderall, so not only was I feeling a little scattered, but I was also feeling a little more peckish than I normally am. Luckily I’m a stoner, so there are plenty of snacks around, and luckier still that I’m on a tolerance break from weed — it takes a psychotic amount of weed for me to feel anything now, which is really very sad — so the snacks are actually available. I grabbed a handful of cheese crackers and some fruit leather and hoped I could just vape my way into satiation.

Dinner was a premade “brisket kefta” with purple sweet potatoes. I have no idea how authentic it was, but it was actually quite nice. It was pink in the center, which is somewhat alarming in a prepackaged meal, but whatever. I’ll find out later if that was a mistake.

Tonight’s boyfriend snack was a Hillshire Farm “snack plate,” which is just basically an adult Lunchable. This is supposed to be the last thing I ate that night, but we went out, so watch this space.

We got home around 1 a.m. and surprise! My boyfriend has the same meal-delivery service that I have, and as soon as we got back to his place I decided to make myself one of his meals, which I knew I shouldn’t but I did anyway. It was lemon tilapia, which is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I dropped it and my boyfriend wouldn’t let me eat it off the ground. I did a little bit anyway because I don’t like to waste food.

He was mad at me and said he won’t kiss me if I continue to eat off the ground, and I say his loss. I did end up eating a little piece of fuzz on accident, but baby, it was worth it.

Friday, April 22
I was out of meal delivery, so for lunch I ordered my favorite meal in the history of meals: a Chipotle burrito bowl. The order is simple. Double chicken. White rice. Black beans. Tomato and corn salsa. Sour cream. Cheese. And, of course, guac. I probably eat this one to three times a week, if not more, and just like nearly everything else I eat, it never gets old. Lots of protein.

I also chase it with a protein shake.

It was a big long stressful day full of errands and meetings and writing and I forgot to eat. It didn’t really dawn on me until I was at a Drag Race viewing party and people around me were eating. I stole a few fries and a piece of buffalo cauliflower and a piece of cake, all of which served as a de facto dinner.

My boyfriend and I went to a Robyn dance party for a while, and I regretted not eating a proper dinner, but I also knew what was coming, so I wasn’t worried.

Starting on Friday, I tend to let go of any food tracking at all and just eat whatever, whenever, usually after 2 a.m.

We arrived home at a sensible 1:15 a.m. — an unusually early night for us — and decided to take advantage of the selection of restaurants that are normally closed to us on Postmates. We went with Italian.

I got an Italian sandwich with fries, as well as fried calamari and my go-to Italian move: ravioli “for the table.” Ravioli portions at restaurants tend to be, in my opinion, psychotically small, so I usually order it as an app because I love ravioli but hate not feeling completely gut busted after eating out.

I worked at the Olive Garden for two years in college. It was the first place I really observed this. I was like, “Wow. There’s like five raviolis on this plate. This is not enough for a meal. I’d be so furious if I got this as a meal.” And so when I would bring friends in, I’d be like, “Ravioli for the table. Everybody gets ravioli.” I’ve been doing it pretty much ever since.

The only thing that traveled well was the ravioli. I, of course, had a Diet Coke, too. I slept like an absolute angel.

Saturday, April 23
The Saturday-morning search was centered around cold brew. I found a place with a 24-hour-brewed cold brew, which sounded strong enough to break my brain. I saw a nice-looking breakfast sandwich, so I grabbed a couple of those. It wound up being one of the greatest breakfast sandwiches in the history of breakfast sandwiches. Homemade English muffin, fried egg, arugula, maple bacon, and some avocado that I added myself. Shout-out to Blackwood Coffee Bar in Hollywood. You did that.

I went to the gym and had the same protein shake. Blessedly, they asked if I wanted a different fruit, so I got my blueberries. Hooray!

This is where things get a little gross. I had a jam-packed evening, I was low on protein for the day, and I didn’t know when my next opportunity to eat would be. So I resorted to something that many in my life consider vile, but I see as practical and efficient. Before leaving for a friend’s premiere party, I take some chicken meatballs I got from Earthbar, throw them in the blender with some water and olive oil, blend it up into a drink, and down it. In less than two minutes I’ve drunk roughly 70 grams of protein in real food in less than a minute. Some might wonder why I don’t just eat the meatballs, and the reason is simple: I hate chicken, I don’t like to eat it, I only had a few minutes before I had to leave, and I am obsessed with efficiency. It works for me!

It’s an old-school bodybuilder thing that I saw on YouTube one time. I’m very utilitarian when it comes to food unless I’m going to order takeout with my boyfriend. It’s basically pre-chewing the chicken for me so that I can down it in literally 90 seconds or less. I don’t mind the taste and I don’t mind the texture. I would say that texturally, I prefer it smooth and soupy rather than lumpy. But for the most part, taste is not paramount for me with chicken milkshakes. For me, at this point in my life, it’s such a no-brainer. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it.

But people literally get so mad at me when they see me do it that they will physically try and stop me it. They will grab the chicken out of my hand and be like, No. Please let me make you the chicken. There have been so many interventions. So now it is a completely solitary activity.

I’m glad I made my little chicken milkshake because aside from a handful of hors d’oeuvres at the premiere and a handful of Cheez-Its when I got home at 3:30 a.m., I didn’t eat for the rest of the night.

Sunday, April 24
My boyfriend’s favorite food is ”burrito,” and I’m happy to supply him with one every Sunday. Today, we grabbed Toasty’s Breakfast Burritos in Studio City. My burrito was a steak breakfast burrito with eggs, jalapeños, mushrooms, cheese, sour cream, and tater tots, which was the entire reason I selected this spot in the first place. A burrito without fries or tots or hash browns to me is not a good burrito. I also ordered myself a cold brew and a blueberry muffin. A bite of muffin and a sip of cold brew is heaven.

We went to a day party on the East Side called Hot Dog. It’s a weekly party where you see every gay person you’ve ever known and then some. They serve — you guessed it — hot dogs, and while some people find it a little gauche to actually eat the hot dogs, I had two.

We stayed at the party until after 10 p.m. I was exhausted and stressed about the coming week, so my boyfriend graciously let me order one of my most shameful guilty pleasures: In a city full of amazing food available to me at my fingertips, I chose … Subway. I know, I know. But I don’t care. I love their yoga-mat bread. I love that no matter which sandwich you get, they all taste the same. It’s comforting and I’m dealing with a lot and my boyfriend really, really loves me.

I ordered my favorite: an Italian BMT on white, with provolone cheese and all the veggies except red onions, because my boyfriend won’t let me kiss him for hours after I eat red onions. To top it all off, I dumped a snack bag of Lay’s potato chips to really make the sandwich sing.

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