B.J. Novak Says His Famous Friends Are ‘Relieved’ When He Suggests a Fast Food Restaurant

When it comes to his celebrity pals, B.J. Novak says “everybody” is a fast food fan.

“I think it’s often where people secretly want to go, the fast food or the familiar spot,” the Office alum tells PEOPLE. “There’s a lot of times you want to pick the cool new place, but deep down you’d rather be at Chili’s or McDonald’s. And whenever I suggest that, people are so happy and relieved.”

In 2021, Novak joined forces with Michelin-starred chef Tim Hollingsworth to launch an immersive dining experience called Chain, offering fresh takes on favorites from fast food and fast casual restaurants. Then in December 2023, the duo debuted ChainFEST, the first gourmet chain food festival, which they documented for a new Roku Original special. 

In Chain Food: All-Star Dishes (streaming July 12) viewers can also see Hollingsworth reimagine eight popular items from Chili’s, Red Robin, Panda Express, Jack in the Box, Sonic, Pizza Hut, Pepsi and Dunkin’. Chrissy Teigen, Rachel Bilson and Josh Peck are among the celebrity guests who make appearances.

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

“We all grew up on it. It’s the same everywhere in the country, often everywhere in the world, and it’s sort of the greatest hits. It’s almost like jokes or folk songs that just evolve over time. It’s like the world coalesces around the things that everyone is drawn to and it’s almost like McDonald’s is a collective imagination in a way.”

“And then it’s been perfected and formed into nostalgic memories for everybody,” he adds.

For Hollingsworth, Chain offers a chance to recreate his earliest food memory: eating a pan pizza at Pizza Hut during a flash flood in Houston.

I still remember the red cups, the Tiffany lamps, being a little kid and just having that buttery crust smell of the pan pizza,” says Hollingsworth, who also runs Los Angeles’ Otium restaurant.

Novak says there are two eateries that evoke nostalgia for his childhood.

“It’s a tie between IHOP as a teenager getting pancakes at 11 p.m., like just no better feeling in the world,” he says. “And also my best friend, Amir, worked at Dunkin’ Donuts growing up outside Boston, and so I loved visiting him there when he closed up and we got to take all the free donuts home.”

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

These days, the actor has new favorites — not surprisingly, one is West Coast burger joint In-N-Out, beloved by Hollywood A-listers.

ChainFEST.

Courtesy of The Roku Channel


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

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

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

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

Hollingsworth’s go-to fast food spot is Taco Bell: “I don’t know really why, but it’s one of those places that I’ve experienced for so many years in my life, and still it’s that guilty pleasure for me of getting home late from work one night and calling up my wife and being like, ‘Hey, you down for some Taco Bell?’”

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

“I didn’t eat a ton of fast food during that period, but I would still eat Taco Bell,” he says. “That would be my one stop. I’d get the same thing every time. It was two Taco Supremes, Nacho BellGrandes with added jalapeños, a Brisk iced tea, cinnamon twists, and it’s still my order today.” 

Tim Hollingsworth and B.J. Novak.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty


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Fast food connoisseurs are known to customize their meal with special menu hacks — and the pair weighed in on some of their favorites, too.

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

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

“I love their caramel sundaes, but I’ll ask for a Caramel McFlurry and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, we don’t have that.’ I’ll be like, ‘But you can make it because you have all of the things?’ Sometimes it doesn’t work, but most of the time it does.”

Chain Food: All-Star Dishes will be available to stream on The Roku Channel on July 12.

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