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“You would never imagine that any of it is food,” Keke Palmer tells ESSENCE of the creations crafted by contestants on the new Disney+ competition series, Foodtastic, which she is host of. “It really is kind of next level.”

The show, which premieres December 15 on the streaming service, showcases food artists of all levels competing to create sculptures of characters and objects from the Disney universe, all made out of food. Fruits, vegetables, butter, cheese, baked goods and more, it all gets transformed into works of art meant to impress Palmer, as well as food experts Amirah Kassem and Chef Benny Rivera.

Disney/Kelsey McNeal

“I loved being thrust into the knowledge of an actual food art competition,” she says. “We always see the food competition shows that are like, the food tastes good and this that and the third, but I’d never seen [one] where people are actually taking the food and making actual constructs and really turn it into this miraculous piece of art.”

It’s Palmer’s first hosting gig for a competition show, but one of many opportunities she’s had lately to entertain people in such a way, including hosting the Met Gala in September to rave reviews. The star tells us that “getting the opportunity to be myself and to really talk to people” is what has led her to continue to take on more and more hosting duties lately.

“There’s something about hosting that makes you feel a lot more human sometimes than acting can or just the celebrity vibe can,” she says. “I really feel like I can be myself as a host and be curious and be who I truly am at heart. People see me as I am in that moment.”

But while playing host, Palmer will also have the chance to do what she does best on this show, and that’s act. “The other side of it, aside from hosting, which excited me was the opportunity to play different characters, which kind of tell the story, which help to design the artist’s masterpieces,” she says. She will dress up as different characters from the Disney IP, including new and classic characters from films like Beauty of the Beast, Pirates of the Caribbean and more, to help contestants understand their grand assignment. The end results are sure to be inspiring, igniting the imaginations of children and adults alike, especially when it comes to what they can make with their hands. But as Palmer joked, after hosting 11 episodes of the series, the ability to make extravagant creations hasn’t rubbed off on her in the kitchen.

“I’m good for some cornbread,” she says. “But I have not in any way reached actual territory of you being like, ‘Keke can cook!?’ No.”

Disney/Kelsey McNeal

So she’s leaving the cooking to others, including her father, whom she says will be the one throwing down for her family this holiday season. She’ll be bringing an empty stomach to her family’s dinner table, and when asked, she says she might bring along boyfriend Darius Jackson as well.

“You know, the conversation has not come up but I’m welcome,” she says. “I’m one of those people where my family has already opened doors. With my friends, a lot of my different friends have come down to Thanksgiving to spend time with us. So, yeah, depending what he’s doing with his family, absolutely.”

But what she is looking forward to most this season is Foodtastic. When asked what she’s most excited about, the star said pretty much everything, including the opportunity to show people how multifaceted food, the series, and Palmer, herself, can be.

“[I’m] very excited about the characters. Anybody that loves my sketches will really love that there’s an aspect of that within this show,” she says. “Aside from that, obviously the amazing food art that [people are] going to see. Really, their minds are honestly going to be blown.”

Foodtastic will be available to stream beginning Wednesday, December 15, only on Disney+.


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