Pastry chef Anne Thornton’s ridiculously delicious Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie (and fun, bubbly personality) caught the attention of many a guest — including a few top Food Network execs — at last year’s SWEET event at the NYC Wine & Food Festival. Now, one year later, Anne has joined the FN family with her very own show for the sweets-obsessed: Dessert First.
It’s a dream come true for Anne, who left a corporate career to pursue her passion for food. “I always thought, I’m going to go to culinary school when I retire,” she says. “Then I realized, you don’t have to wait until you retire to do what you like!”
Dessert First premieres this Sunday at noon. Before you tune in to watch Anne make festive Halloween treats (Couture Caramel Apples rolled in fun toppings like popcorn and peanut butter cups; spooky Red Velvet “Brains” Cupcakes), get to know our new pastry gal with 10 questions from the Dish.
1. You majored in finance and worked at Apple before becoming a pastry chef. When did you discover your love of baking?
I’ve loved baking since I was very little. I used to wake up really early, and the only other person who would wake up so early, like after Christmas, was my grandmother, who would be making blueberry muffins for everyone. She put me to work. So that’s how I started. I’ve been baking and cooking my whole life…I studied finance and philosophy, but that was just because there was no major in cooking!
2. Do you have a culinary mentor?
I love Ina Garten. I’m obsessed. But I’d say John Delucie is probably my mentor. He’s the executive chef at the Waverly Inn, and he was the one who put me in pastry. I’d never done pastry professionally before.
3. Favorite place to order dessert?
Grandma’s kitchen! A brownie sundae. I’m basic when it comes to that stuff. I just love ice cream. Take me to any ice cream parlor on the planet.
4. If you had to choose, are you more of a chocolate dessert person or a fruit dessert person?
Put chocolate and fruit together! I love chocolate-covered strawberries, I love white chocolate pear brioche bread pudding.
5. What’s a dessert recipe of your own that you’re most proud of/love the most?
I always say this, so I guess it is my signature — that’s my Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie. That’s what started it all when I made it at the SWEET event last year. I make it on the caramel episode of Dessert First.
6. Can’t-live-without ingredient?
Salt. I put salt in everything. Yesterday I made chocolate chip blondies with fleur de sel on top. I love that balance, salty-sweet. That’s my thing.
7. What do you give out to trick-or-treaters?
I love those mini Butterfingers. Those are my favorite things, they’re better than the big ones because there’s more chocolate on them!
8. Favorite Halloween candy as a kid?
I lived in Cleveland and there’s this chocolate place called Malley’s, they make amazing chocolate bars. The people who owned the Cleveland Indians lived in our neighborhood, and of course that was the house everyone wanted to go to because they’d always give out these huge, huge candy bars. We’d go to that house and then say, can we go back again? Will they recognize us?
9. What’s on your Thanksgiving dessert spread?
Pumpkin Maple Pecan Cheesecake. It’s as good as it sounds. Instead of doing a pumpkin pie I do this cheesecake, and it’s really light—well, not light in calories!—but it has this great maple flavor and just tastes like what Thanksgiving’s about. I’m in charge of everything at Thanksgiving—not just dessert!
10. With all the baking going on for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then the holidays right around the corner, can you give your top three tips for home bakers?
- No fear. That’s the first step. Don’t be afraid of making desserts; it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m all about perfectly imperfect.
- Read the whole recipe. That’s Julia Child’s advice, but I’ll borrow it!
- Have ice cream on hand. If something goes wrong, who doesn’t love ice cream?
Catch Anne’s TV debut on Dessert First this Sunday at 12pm/11c.