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Q & A With Anne Burrell

With her spiky blonde hair and signature cowgirl skirt, chef Anne Burrell doesn’t quite fit the part of supporting character.  Yet, until 2007, that’s what she played as Mario Batali’s sous chef on Iron Chef America.  Before that, she trained in Tuscany, then returning to New York, worked under Lidia Bastianich at Felidiaand taught at I.C.E. for three years.But 2007 has been a very good year for Burrell: She not only made an impressive debut at Centro Vinoteca, but also inherited Gusto’s kitchen.  Amidst a new wave of Italian trattorias, Anne distinguished herself with her  “piccolini,” featuring truffled devil eggs, fried cauliflower wedges and eggplant cakes dabbed with ricotta.  She also delivers an excellent fennel pollen-crusted pork chop and rabbit involtino.

Status: Single/Married/Divorced
Very single

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Julia Child

What was your first job in food?
Fry girl at the McDonald’s in my town.
What was it like working with Lidia Bastianich atFelidia? How did you acquire the sous chef position at such a prominentItalian establishment so quickly?
When I came to New York I was 27 and had just returnedto the US after spending a year in Italy. I was really hungry for a work experiencethat I could use what I had learned in Italy. The opportunity to work for a woman also appealed to me. I guess Lidia recognized that I really wanted to work hard and learn a lot, or maybe I was in the right spotat the right time – who knows.

Working at Felidia was one of the toughest jobs I haveever had, mostly because I put so much pressure on myself. It was my first job in NYC and I was the only girl in the kitchen beside the pastrydepartment. I was determined to work harder than the guys in the kitchen.I was really uptight about the whole thing because I wanted so much to do agood job. The funny thing is I probably would have done a better job andhad a LOT more fun if I had just relaxed about the whole thing. I was pretty bitchy. Overall it was an incredible experience and I learned a tremendous amount. Lidia and Dodo are incredibly talented.

Early on in your career you took an unconventionalsabbatical from restaurants to teach at ICE for three years.
I took a job teaching because I was really burnt outfrom restaurants. I needed a change of scenery, but something stillinvolved with cooking and it definitely made me a better cook. It really made me question cooking techniques and ask myself a lot of “Why do I dothis…” sort of thing. I was able to answer these kinds of questions formyself. It made me decide what kind of cook I wanted to be.

What compelled you to return to the restaurant 
scene?
I missed restaurants. After three years of teaching I realized Ihad a LOT more to do with my career. Teaching is really a finish your careerkind of the rather than start your career kind of thing.

Tell us about your experience working as Mario Batali’s
sous chef on Iron Chef America?
Iron Chef is really a stressful experience. It IS every bit as stressful as it seems. My philosophy is: I want to help as much as I can and I am not going to be the reason Mario loses. That being said, I love doing it. It really is a blast.
You recently made your first solo debut at CentroVinoteca.  How did cope with the delayed opening and where did you create therecipes and your signature piccolini?
The delay was tough, but I think it all worked out very well. I tested recipes in my apartment for 9 months before theopening. Every week I would have my bosses Sasha Muniak (Centro/Gusto/Mangia owner)and George Elkins (VP of the company) and my publicists to my house for a tasting dinner. It was really fun but a lot of work. I don’t have a dishwasher (not so much fun) and I had to shop for everything. I think my arms stretched from carrying so many grocery bags. Piccolini came from my own desire to have little ”snacky” things when I am looking over the menu & wine list when I go out for dinner. I miss them when I go to other restaurants.
You’re somewhat infamous for wearing a cowgirl skirt in the kitchen. Is this a good luck charm?
The cowgirl skirts are a good luck charm when we doIron Chef. I wore a kitty skirt one time and we lost, never again! I do wear a skirt everyday in the kitchen. Ifigure if all the old ladies in Italy wear dresses in the kitchen, why can’t I wear a skirt in NYC? I have been doing it for so long nowthat I don’t think I could go back to pants.

Centro Vinotecawas recently under review by numerous 
publications.  What’s your reaction to the flurry of articles?

It is really a nerve-wracking experience. It is so hard to have something that you have worked so hard on and put your blood, sweat and tears into get picked apart by the public.  I would read, reread and deconstructevery review, article or blog about Centro. I would go crazy overit. I think it is better to read them, take them for what they are and make changes if you need to, or not. That is really easy to say and impossible to do. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself – Do I really believe in what I’m doing? Am I making good food? Do I have the confidence in what I’m doing to be able to make my bosses, staff and the public believe in it? If I can answer yes to these questions then I can feel like I’m doing a good job.
You’ll be taking over in Gusto’s kitchen following Amanda’s Freitag’s departure. What do you envision for the new menu?
I want to keep the feel of Gusto. It is more upscale, elegant and refined than Centro. I really don’t have any specifics yet but I know that it will be fun and sexy.
How do you feel about pulling double duty at both Centro Vinoteca & Gusto?
I feel pretty great about it. It gives me a chance to do lots more stuff and really get creative.
What’s your favorite dish on Centro Vinoteca’s menu right now, and why?
They are all my favorites, but if I had to pick a favorite plus, it would be the porkchop or the pici pasta.
What’s your least favorite dish (and yes, you must pick one)?
I can’t pick one. All of the dishes are like my babies, I can’t and won’t say that I don’t like one or don’t believe in it. If I didn’t like it, it wouldn’t be on the menu.

What is your junk food of choice?
French fries
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Babbo
What culinary trend do you most embrace?
Small plates
What trend do you wish would die already?
I’m not super-psyched about chemical cookery. I respectit, but it’s not my cup of tea.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Are there any plans for future restaurants? Spill the beans…
My next restaurant project is Gusto. I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into that project. Beyond that I can’t really say- as far as I’m concerned the sky’s the limit!
Centro Vinoteca
Address: 74 7th Ave., btwn. Barrow & Bleeker Sts.
Phone: (212)367-7470Gusto
Address: 60 Greenwich Ave., btwn. 6th & 7th Ave.
Phone: (212)924-8000

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl
**Don’t forget to subscribe for Restaurant Girl’s Weekly Newsletter**

31 Comments

  1. I do not very often write good notes to people or shows,but I am an old retired nurse after 41 years and Anne Burrell’s programs give me much enjoyment! I am sickly so the TV is my friend and her shows really give my days a boost! I think I have even learned a few things. Also happy you have a partner and I have been with my mine for almost 30 years! Well be happy and take care! Please keep doing the shows because I need you! Dan

  2. Thanks for being You! So glad to watch a Chef that does NOT use pepper…I am allergic to it, as are a lot of people. Pepper of any color is very hard on your digestive tract.

    I learn a lot every time I watch your Restaurant Chef show.

  3. I’m a fan and enjoy watching you shows, but what is up with the hair this year? Wish you would cut it back some or get a new style and shock everybody. You good looking! Hope you win again also I love Bobby too.

    Good luck

  4. I am a real big fan but when I watch your show that features looking for an executive chef, sometimes I have to laugh. Tonight I’m watching the Tuscan Restaurant episode and I have to laugh and cringe at some of the silliest mistakes these chefs make. I come from a pretty large family whose used to eating on a set schedule and having to have the diner meal meal made in a set amount of time. That includes desert as well. I’m talking a full blown 3 to 4 course meal. So i cant fathom why they are not able to prepare, cook and serve a minimum of 65 to 70 people in a restaurant ??????? I would love to share some of my Italian recipes with you and to teach some of the people who have been kicked off how to run a kitchen.

    Thank you

    Judy

  5. Chef Anne,

    I am a retired RN. I have cooked both (meat and veggie dishes) for my family for years, done some banquets and other special events. After a short break from mixing the spices, I’m rekindling the pilot light. For over 25 years, I have enjoyed the unique variety of being a vegetarian. BUT! Several times across the last week, I have woken up to you discussing MEAT. It is foreplay to my tongue. Now wide awake, I indulge in an absolute culinary inciting taboo as I continued to watch. I am guilty as famished… Got to go eat!!!

    Respectfully Hungry

    Eddy

  6. Hi Ann,Im the owner of a small goat dairy in western Maine I use the milk from my goats to make a variety of cheeses and other milk based products that I sell to stores restaraunts and farmers markets.One of my specialties are a vast variety of flavored chevres both savory and sweet.
    I was in the hunt for an awesome bread recipe when I stumbled upon your focicia bresd recipe, after making it for several weeks I had a brainstorm and decided to add some chevre to it I use a 5oz container per recipe mixed with the olive oil it has been a success,I then converted the recipe to accomodate sweet flavored cheese in it as well.What dosent sell then becomes the best bread pudding ever.Please check us out on facebook and our web site Im always looking to expand my business venture.Thank you,Lisa

  7. cook like a rockstar|||| zucchini fritters with one zucchini and two onions???????????????????

  8. Hi Chef Anne I am looking for a recipe my mother cooked when we were growing up she is passed away and there is no other family living it is an italian pastry of sorts we called it gulgenite it is a fried dough stuffed with chocolate nutts whiskey figgs can u help thanks so much Holly

  9. Chef Anne, Love all your shows. I loved you hair before this year it’s alot longer you are very cute now but alot more sexier with it shorter.

  10. Hi Chef Anne,

    I know you’re a fan of the coconut cake at S&W’s. But have you ever tried the coconut cake at Porterhouse in the Time Warner building in NYC?

    Fran

  11. order an fr.aaa58.net for more

  12. Anne, you sincerely make my heart smile. Thank you. David Johnson

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    We ask that you consider donating merchandise or a gift card to support our fundraiser and the continued work of The Unexcelled Fire Company. An auxiliary member will contact you during the next few weeks or you can contact us at one of the numbers listed below. If you choose to mail your donation you may mail it to:
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    Or to the above Post Office Box.

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    Gift Auction Committee

    Merrill Megill (848)-466-0516
    Barbara Williams (732)-682-3646

  14. I love your show and all but could you please stop saying, “SOOOOO”? I counted over 50 times in one program and it is very annoying. It’s a nervouse thing, I am sure but please try harder not to say it.

    • What a jackass thing to say! If you don’t like a chef’s presentation, either don’t watch the show or watch it and be quiet. Criticizing the way one talks is such rude and insulting thing to do.

  15. Hi,
    First, thank you. I’ve become a much better cook since I bagan watching your show. Not only do I understand food and how I can have fun with it, But I also developed a much more efficient manner in the kitchen.
    I have cooked so many of your receipes and haven’t failed to wow my dinner guests. So yes, thank you.
    Second, I want to upgrade my range and would love to know what brand of range you are cooking on.

    Kathy

  16. Why don’t Anne use any kind of pepper in any of her cooking,and how come she ain’t married? how old is she anyway,just wondering?

    • Wow! It amazes me the rudeness of people on here! The reason why she isn’t married is really none of anyone’s business. That would have been her answer to you at the time of your question. However, recently she has announced that she will in fact be getting married to her partner in New York State since same-sex marriages are now legal in NY.

  17. Anne…………….
    Can’t possibly confer the enjoyment I get from watching
    “Secrets……..” Love love love it…..!
    Wish I could have been YOU….but I am about done……( [and I mean well-done like a turkey burger!!]You “infuse” a breath of fresh air into preparing any
    “occurrence”………….(any meal…any time. ) Want to
    put you in a “thank you for coming” bucket…only so I can save you forever…..!!
    Keep doing whatever it is that you do to make watching you and cooking pure magic!
    Grace

  18. Anne,
    You are the Best! Love watching you and yours are the only
    recipes I actually try. I tape every episode of”Secrets”.
    SO!! (your favorite expression)keep up the great work.
    I am in Boston and hope to make a trip soon to your
    restaurant. Can you or someone post a list of your
    appearences? Would love to see you in action.
    You are the only down to earth person on Food network.
    Please don’t change and become a Paula Deen. Stay the way
    you are. You don’t need the diamonds. You have the Heart!
    Good luck in all you do.
    Pat
    Boston, Ma

  19. Anne, I’m an old lady (80) and I love watching your shows. You have such great energy and are so INTO your food.
    I am curious about the fact that as far as I can tell, you are the only Food Network chef who doesn’t appear to use black pepper in any of your dishes. I’ve seen you use crushed red pepper flakes, but never ground black pepper. Would you mind commenting on this for me? Thanks a bunch.

  20. I know this is a shot in the dark but my daughter is having a wedding shower on July 23rd. You are her favorite chef(mine as well). I really don’t want anything too out of the way from you but we are collecting favorite recipes from guests. I was wondering if you have one that you could pass on. I would like to add that for a young person (33 is young in my book!) she is a fantastic cook!
    It would be fun to include that at the shower, she would be thrilled. I know that she said that you tweeted (?, I’m old) her at one time and she was knocked over by the excitement of it all! Her name is Devon Behrens and we are in Nassau county. It would be a huge thrill if I could give her a recipe from Anne Burrell at the party.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.
    Dev’s Mom, Carrie

  21. We’d love you to subscribe. Just have to put your email in the box in the upper right hand corner of the website!

  22. Personally, I think Anne is one of the hottest and sexiest women on the Food Network and would love to meet her!

  23. WOW! How does Anne keep up all the things she is involved in, does she ever get overwhelmed! I have a lot of respect for her juggling so much all this time and in the past. I am really interested in her Italian cooking and where she learned this from in Italy, because my mother was born and raised in Catania Sicily and I know that whatever region in Italy and Sicily you are from they have different was to prepare and cook. I am used to cooking Sicilan style from my mom. So what parts were you were at and would like to find out more of how you prepare these dishes.

  24. I would love to get more info. on Anne Burrell’s cooking in regards to Italian menues. My mom is born and raised in Catania Sicily, and has passed on to me alll the thing that are different unique to that region. Not all Italian cooking is the same depending on the region you are from. So is there a way to get in contact to Food Network and in regards to Anne for recipe swapping? Love Food Network, my new obsession.

  25. You just enter your email into the box on the upper right hand side of restaurantgirl.com. Thanks!

  26. Since I first caught Anne on Iron Chef America, I was a fan. I plan my Saturday schedule around SECRETS OF A RESTAURANT CHEF.
    I hope she’s in the kitchen when I’m able to get to New York to visit the restaurant.

  27. Anne grew up in Cazenovia, outside of Syracuse. She did a cooking demo a few weeks ago there (a local fundraiser). She was AWESOME!

  28. I am commenting on two things:
    First, I am a big fan of Anne Burrell! Her food looks delicious, but I love that she speaks so intelligently regarding cooking techniques and the finish of her dishes.
    Secondly, I would like to subscribe for Restaurant Girl’s Weekly Newsletter
    Thank you,
    JoTyler

  29. Hi Chef Anne,
    I think that you are awesome on your show and i would love to come to see a live taping.. Could you please point me in the direction where to go so i can adquire some tickets?
    So is this the best way to email you…

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  1. Better Know a Guest: December 12th – 15th, 2011 - [...] her on Twitter. Here’s a Q&A with Burrell. Watch her cook a coq au [...]

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