The YouTube star makes the jump to Food Network with her new travel series

By Ruth Kinane
August 14, 2017 at 09:30 AM EDT

You probably know Hannah Hart best from getting drunk in her kitchen — no, really. The self-proclaimed “food enthusiast” made a name for herself with her quirky YouTube show My Drunk Kitchen, starting back in 2011. The show sees Hart endeavor to concoct a meal or snack aided by generous servings of an alcoholic beverage. Due to her easy charm and often-successful recipes, the show has garnered a following of 2.5 million subscribers over the years, and now she’s bringing her talent to television.

I Hart Food, which premieres Monday night on Food Network, is a cross-country culinary road trip where Hart takes her unique brand of humor and enthusiasm for eating to six different cities. There, she’ll taste the signature dish in each, learning from local chefs and restaurateurs.

EW caught up with Hart before the premiere episode to talk — let’s face it — mostly about food.

Hannah Hart CR: Food Network
Credit: Food Network

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Pitching a show where you get to travel the country and eat food along the way is just genius.
It is! I think travel and food kind of go hand in hand, at least for me; when I travel I very much do dictate my vacations or stay-cations from meal to meal.

The main concept of the show revolves around how when you go visit an area that’s known for a local resource, say like Portland, Maine, or the signature example of red or green chili peppers in Santa Fe – which is actually what the first episode is about – how do you have 40 or so rival restaurants all centered around effectively the same thing? How can they be that different from each other? So that’s really what the show is: All the different way to prepare an ingredient, all the different way to serve an ingredient, and the chefs’ different relationships that they have to the ingredient.

So is the show more about introducing people to new foods or places, or a mix of both?
I’d say it’s about 50/50. It’s something we were really conscious of. My favorite type of programming is info-tainment. I really like to learn something while I’m watching a show. So, with I Hart Food we want to highlight the areas we’re in, show the fun of travel and the fun of eating, but there are also moments where I take a break from the show and turn to the audience and say, ‘Hey, here’s something I just learned.’ Like, I know how to make clarified butter now.

Did you pick the cities you visited?
I wanted to go to cities that I hadn’t seen being as highlighted. Obviously, Santa Fe and Portland are cities that are pretty well known, but Eugene, Oregon or Asheville, North Carolina or even Minneapolis – I don’t think people necessarily think about Minneapolis and think about the food scene.

How was it working with chefs and restaurant owners around the country? How did it vary city-to-city?
The chefs that we met were really interesting people who were very passionate about what they do. They were all just very different experiences. There was one chef in Minneapolis who took us to his rooftop garden and we got to see his relationship to the food and his relationship to Minneapolis as a city. Then, one of the natives of Asheville finally got to open their five-star restaurant in their hometown after going out and learning all about it, so the show really is about the story behind each meal.

Was there one place you visited or one food you tasted that surprised you the most?
There was one moment when I was surprised. There was a moment in North Carolina when my awesome production team said they had a surprise for me — it was that I was actually going to be trying a dessert; I’m really a savory person. The director kept saying I was really going to love it and it turned out to be a peanut butter pie with a pretzel crust. It was literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It was so good. It was just the most phenomenal texture because the peanut butter had more of a whipped quality to it and the pretzel crust – oh my gosh. I can’t say enough about it.

And that’s pretty salty so a perfect dessert for you!

How have you found the transition from YouTube to television?
People always assume that when you start out online you have an endgame of wanting to go and transition to television, but for me it was never about leaving my platform for something bigger. It was always about expanding in the next natural step. We went in to discuss the show and we only went to one network and that was Food. We really clicked and gelled and from there we made a really great show — in my opinion.

So of all the shows out there that combine cooking and traveling, what makes I Hart Food stand out?
That’s hard to say. I think that’s up to viewers to decide. It’s a hard question to answer without sounding self-aggrandizing. Let’s just say that I wanted to make a show that I was proud of, that we all were proud of, and no matter what, I think at the end of the day that comes through. We made something that we, as viewers ourselves, would really enjoy.

I can’t believe it’s finally here. The way people have been excited about it has made me even more excited about it and a little nervous because I hope they like it as much as I do!

I Hart Food premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET on Food Network.