Anne Burrell’s first television gig may have been to roll out pasta for Mario Batali on Iron Chef America, but it quickly became evident that she was a Food Network star in her own right. With her spiky blond hair, spunky skirts, irrepressible energy and can-do attitude, she’s since proven herself as a charming, fun-loving host of cooking shows, like Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and a tough but compassionate mentor in competitions, like Worst Cooks in America and Chef Wanted.
“Even though I was a sous chef on Iron Chef, what the Food Network really saw was this chick that knows how to cook!” remembers Burrell. “The next step was to give me a screen test to see if I could cook and talk.” Unfortunately, her continued on-screen success has kept her out of restaurant kitchens for quite some time (a former vet of Felidia and Savoy, her last post was at Centro Vinoteca in 2008). And although she has no intention of stepping out of the Food Network spotlight, she also promises that a brick-and-mortar venture might not be far off.
“I just miss the restaurant culture. People who work in restaurants are so fantastic!” Burrell enthused. “I’m always looking for an opportunity to return to restaurants.” We also spoke with the chef about battling nerves in front of the camera, her passion for British comfort foods, and her exciting and accessible new cookbook, “Cook Like a Rock Star.”
What do you think you would have become if you hadn’t have become a chef?
What job would you say really kick-started your career?
There have been so many different phases of my life and so many jobs have been important at the time. They all add up to the fabric that is me! So I think that at any given time, it’s the job I’m throwing myself into.
Food Network personalities tend to have a “brand” that they can sum up in one sentence. What would you say is yours?
I want to make cooking fun and accessible to everyone!
You’re currently a seasoned television chef, but what were some of the toughest things to learn or get used to when you first got started (and is there anything that you still have a hard time with?)
It’s really hard to perform just for a camera. It’s really hard not to feel like a bit of a bonehead… you think you did a great job and then you watch it and go “Oh my god.” So it’s really hard to just get used to feeling natural at performing.
“Own Your Kitchen” is your second cookbook. How would you say it complements and expands on “Cook Like a Rock Star?”
It expands past the rustic Italian and opens up new flavors and reflects my journey as a Girl Chef! It includes places I’ve been and experiences I’ve encountered while still holding onto the accessible and fun elements for the home cook!
What do you consider to be the most important takeaways or tips from your cookbook?
Just get in there and experience it! Build your confidence and be inspired and empowered! OWN IT!
A common theme throughout the book appears to be “global comfort foods.” How have you made them your own?
I always put my own thumbprint on anything, so whatever I do, I always try to give it some clever twist and make it my own.
You’ve included a lot of traditional British recipes in your book, like Shepherds Pie, Fish and Chips, Mushy Peas, Scotch Eggs and Sticky Toffee Pudding. What excites you about Brit cuisine, and why do you think it gets such a bad rap?
I grew up with Friday Night Fish Fry and that’s what’s reflected in that dish. I’ve had some great fish and chips in London, but it doesn’t necessarily scream British to me. Sticky Toffee Pudding is just sooo delicious and I love anything with toffee and caramel in it! Shepherds Pie is basically Lamb Stew, which is a classic braise; it may seem like British food but to me it’s just yummy and delicious.
An entire section of the book is devoted to brunch. Is this a particularly important meal to you, and what can we usually find you doing (and eating) on the weekend?
I love breakfast food — anytime, anyhow, anyway — and there’s a lot of different ways you can go; sweet, savory, eggs, etc. I love brunch because there are so many different options.
Which recipes from your cookbook do you find yourself making the most at home?
I’m on the road a lot, so unfortunately I don’t cook as often as I’d like. But I do love to make the Braised Pork Belly.
What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement to date?
I feel like all of my achievements are great ones and I’m just thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given and I hope there are always more of them!
What’s next on the horizon for you; a new television show, another cookbook, a return to restaurants?
The current season of Worst Cooks with Bobby Flay premieres on February 17th and I’m so excited about it! I loved working on the show and watching the progression of the cooks. It’s super fun and rewarding!