You might have seen Jonathan Hanna on the current season of “Worst Cooks in America” on the Food Channel, or the 2019 season of “Dating Around” on Netflix — or maybe you recognize his distinctive mustache from the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Here’s Jonathan’s West Side Story…
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I grew up in Jersey, very close to the city. I’ve been coming here since I was a toddler and moved straight to Hell’s Kitchen in August 2011.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
My goal was to live in Hell’s Kitchen because I love the nightlife, Central Park, the Lincoln Tunnel, Broadway, and the West Side Highway.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
I love its centrality and liveliness! Also, running along the river and hanging on Pier 84.
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
The summer aroma of garbage and urine.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time?
I stayed put. Thankfully, my family lives nearby in Jersey, so once things calmed down, I visited them.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
Pre-COVID, I was an actor, hand model, digital marketing tutor and teaching assistant, and also a social media manager. I’m very grateful to still be doing the same work minus the social media management (knock on wood and Thank God), and for the month of April, I was helping out at a COVID testing site at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
There is a lot of nature in NYC when it’s very quiet.
Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
Biking 120 miles a week over the GWB! Filming dance videos! Dressing up in costume! And most recently, cooking and baking!
What’s the most serendipitous (random/obscure/ insane) experience that’s happened to you in Hell’s Kitchen?
Peeing two urinals down from Lin-Manuel Miranda, at the 2015 Labor Day performance of Shakespeare in the Park, about a month after the opening of Hamilton on Broadway.
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
I caught Katy Perry’s guitar pick at her 2017 Witness Tour at MSG.
What’s your superpower?
Buying concert tickets!
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
I practice accents in the shower, usually New York, Midwestern, and Southern.
Which people inspire you the most?
I tend to be inspired by my surroundings, and by specific people including Madonna, Cardi B, my parents, my brother, some of my friends. LOL
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“You can’t have the rainbow without the rain.”
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
I love biking through Times Square because it reminds me, even in a pandemic, that NYC is the greatest city in the world. Also, the new Krispy Kreme is open 24/7.
Do you love Hudson Yards? Why, or why not?
I wish developers had opted for an amusement park! I grew up in Jersey, so malls are very common. However, I do want to visit the Edge.
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
All the clubs of the 70s, 80s, and 90s!
Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
Check out my instagram @jahlyricist and on this season of “Worst Cooks in America” with Anne Burrell and Carla Hall. The series has changed my life. Before being on the show, the extent of my cooking was boiling pasta, using an egg cooker, or baking unseasoned chicken. I love cooking and baking now, and considering we are still living the pandemic life, it’s very therapeutic. I try to challenge myself with new dishes and techniques.
HELL’S KITCHEN HAPPY PLACES
Ponche Taqueria (W49th Street between 9/10th Ave). I love their Three Taco Combo, and their food is very fresh and authentic.
Al’s Cycle Solutions (10th Avenue between W47/48th Street). I’m friends with the employees and owner, and they provide awesome service!
Loi Estiatorio (W58th Street between 6/7th Avenue). Not strictly Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s one of the best Greek restaurants in NYC, and they were my “food home away from home” at the beginning of the pandemic because I missed my mom’s home cooking! I’m Egyptian (the Greeks have very similar dishes).
Nizza (9th Avenue between W44/45th Street). I’ve been eating there for at least 9 years. Love how they change up their menu and their burrata and bread. They also have nice heated lamps outside.
Washland Laundromat (10th Avenue on the corner of W48th Street). Great service, and I can always find all my socks!
Holey Cream (9th Avenue between W52/53rd Street). I love their custom donuts and that they are still open until around midnight. Perfect place to get that nightly boost for your creativity.