You know Geoffrey, Jeff, Katie, Marcela and Sunny from their other adventures on Food Network and FoodNetwork.com, but for the first time last Saturday, you watched them come together on their brand-new series, The Kitchen (airing Saturdays at 11am/10c). Katie and Geoffrey cooked alongside each other, Sunny showed off her version of crepes, and the group dished about the latest trends and topics in everyone’s favorite room of the house: the kitchen. Before the season gets too far underway, however, FN Dish wants fans to get to know each of the co-hosts a bit better, so we’ll be sharing exclusive interviews with all five chefs every day this week. Read on below to learn more about Sunny Anderson, then get to know the rest of the group.
Tell us your culinary point of view in the kitchen in a few sentences.
Sunny Anderson: I am hungry, I am impatient and I am lazy. This is how I cook.
Why did you want to get involved in The Kitchen?
SA: I always talk about food, so why not get paid for it, right? And it’s a good excuse to get Geoffrey Zakarian to cook for me weekly.
How is The Kitchen different than the other shows on Food Network?
SA: First of all, there’s someone to talk to, so you have a conversation. It’s not just talking into the blank abyss of the camera and hoping someone is having fun with your conversation, so it’s really nice to have some really cool food people to, like, veg out on just the topic of food. Pun intended. Also, I think this is going to give a lot more information to the person at home as to how to get things done. I think sometimes when you have a cooking show that’s 30 minutes and there’s three or four recipes, you kind of have to plow through them and pick your moments where you want to teach. I think with this format, we’ll be able to give a little bit more detail, and with all the differing views and culinary styles of each of the cooks, I think it will be really a benefit to the people at home, ’cause immediately you get five views instead of just one host saying this is how I think it should be done.
What will you bring to The Kitchen? What’s your perspective?
SA: I think my perspective and angle is everything for everyone. I grew up moving around as an Army brat, then I joined the Air Force, so what I hate to do is be put in a corner like Baby. And I really love the idea of someone like Geoffrey Zakarian making something that I would consider something pedestrian for a super chef like him … and then also [me] coming in and maybe doing something a bit fancier than some would expect from me, so I love the extremes in food, and I think they should belong to everyone. I just love food.
Do you ever use recipes when you cook something new, or do you just wing it? And if you do use recipes, what kinds of dishes are they for? What are you looking up?
SA: Yeah, sometimes I do. If I’ve written up a recipe that I think is pretty perfect, I like to when I make that recipe, I do it exactly like [that]. Like my mac and cheese, it does not change. I can freestyle one and I can freestyle pretty much anything in the kitchen. But if I’ve got something tried-and-true that I’ve actually written down and there are amounts, usually I don’t have to refer to the recipe ’cause I’ve done it so many times, but I stick to it to the T.
Do you have a favorite cookbook?
SA: Yes, I do. It’s Sunny’s Kitchen: Real Food for Real Life, New York Times best-seller. It’s my favorite book because, obviously, I wrote it, but I think after that, How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. It reads like a novel and I love it. And I love Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties That Are Really Fun.
Who’s the one Food Network talent you’d most like to face off against in a friendly cook-off?
SA: Do we get to eat what they made? [Editor's note: Hypothetically, sure.] I would happily lose to Morimoto. I would happily lose to him just so I could get a plate.
You’ve lived all over the world. If you had to call one city home, what would it be?
SA: I guess I would have to say Brooklyn. It’s got a little bit of everything. It makes me a little emotional. I’ve never called a city home before. I think Brooklyn. Yeah, it’s got a little bit of everything, like, there’s the Korean food that I love, there’s German food, there’s Spanish food. There’s everything. I guess New York, even. I love New York.
You often share photos of your four cats with your fans on Twitter. Tell us a bit about their personalities and how they came to join your family.
SA: Cheddar is the first. She’s a diva; she’s the diva cat. If any other cat is getting love or treats, she shows up. She sleeps on my pillow next to my head every night …. Then Truffle Tycoon is big man on campus. He’s a Maine coon. He’s just sweet and calm, and he does all the talking. And if there’s a fight, he breaks it up; he runs to it and his presence stops it …. The reason I call Cheddar Cheese Cheddar Cheese is ’cause she balls into a cheddar wheel when she sleeps and she’s orange. So Truffle, his name was already Tycoon when I got him … but I like alliteration, and I found him in the dirt of New York, just like truffles you find in the dirt, so I thought Truffle would be perfect …. And then Milky Mouth … one day I was in my test kitchen, I listen to 1010 WINS, and they had a report about a lady in Sheepshead Bay that had 44 cats and her landlord was going to kick her out if she didn’t get rid of the bulk of them, and so for the whole day they were going to have a drive to get rid of these cats, and I thought, I always complain about hoarders, I can do something — instead of just watching and complaining. So I stopped cooking — I don’t even know what I was cooking — it didn’t matter. [And] I went and got Milky. I call [him] Milky Mouth ’cause he’s all brown and his mouth is all white. It looks like he just dipped it in milk. And then Sea Salt is a Food Network connection. Justin Warner, who won Food Network Star, has a restaurant, Do or Dine, in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and one day he tweeted out a picture of an adorable little kitten that showed up in his [restaurant's] back courtyard. And he knew if he was inspected and the kitten was hanging out, he’d get a dig for that on his grade, so he said, “Who can take care of this cat?” And I was like, “Me.” So I went and picked up Sea Salt the next week. And Sea Salt was dubbed Sea Salt ’cause it’s a beautiful gray, and, again, I like alliteration.
Fans appreciate your “real” approach to cooking. Any tips on making dressed-up dishes or seemingly complicated recipes more approachable?
SA: Just chop up some parsley and sprinkle it over the top. Garnish is so fancy. Listen, I never garnish at home — I’ll be honest with you. I don’t garnish at home. But when I go to a restaurant and it’s garnished, I’m like, “Fancy!” So, yeah, just garnish your plate. I practice everyday real food. Like I said, I am impatient and lazy, so, I’m sorry, making a rose out of a radish, not up my alley. But if you can chop up some herbs, some fresh herbs, and toss them on the plate, add some color, toss them into some mashed potatoes, I say go for it. Herbs that are fresh can step your game up.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? All of them
Chocolate or vanilla? Both of them
Bagels or doughnuts? Both
Cream cheese or butter? Both
Coffee or tea? Coffee
French fries or onion rings? Both
Burgers or hot dogs? Both
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Both
Beer or wine? Beer
Tune in to The Kitchen every Saturday at 11am/10c.