Friday, April 4
Sunny Anderson isn't exactly new to Food Network. In 2005, she appeared as a guest on Emeril Live and has since hosted a series of specials on food gadgets and gizmos called Gotta Get It. You can still catch those in repeats from time to time.
Food Network Addict: Describe your appearance on Emeril Live.
Sunny: When I turned the corner and saw Food Network’s building, I threw up in my car… well, into my morning tea [laughing]. I couldn’t throw up out the car… people would think I was drunk or something—hungover from the night before.
I was so nervous to meet Emeril. After that show was over, I couldn’t tell you what I said, where I looked—it was all out of body. People were saying I played well to the camera and I didn’t even know where the camera was!
It was such a good feeling [doing the show], though. Doing something you love and sharing. That’s all radio was for me… living life and sharing my experiences on the air.
Sunny "couldn't let it go" after appearing on Emeril's show and was determined to make food television her next career move. After seveal years of trying out different ideas (both with Food Network directly and also with production companies), Sunny says they stripped it all down and came up with Cooking for Real.
Sunny: Finally in the end it just got so complicated. We decided to break everything down and make it simple. Sometimes when you look so hard for [something], it’s so not there.
FNA: How did the title, Cooking for Real, come about?
Sunny: It came to me in an email [laughing]. I think they want to play on the idea that I’m a real person--not a celebrity with a huge restaurant. It’s definitely not about me being the only one doing “real” cooking on the network. Hello—Mario? Giada? Ina?
What I do best is cooking the food of my travels, the food of my youth… the food I really cook. We’ve got a New Orleans show, a North Carolina show, a Germany show, a Tex-Mex show for the time I was in San Antonio. Once we’ve run out of cities I’ve been to—which will take some time since I’ve been a lot of places—it’ll be more about me showing how to flip it. You don’t have to have a full-on Asian meal, but there are some Asian flavors you can toss into things you wouldn’t normally.
FNA: How often do you cook in real life?
Sunny: Maybe three times a week, and then on the weekend I must cook. My boyfriend comes over and he eats like a horse. Usually Monday’s leftovers, Tuesday I’ll start cooking and stop on Thursday. Then Friday’s a meal, Saturday’s a meal, Sunday’s a meal.
FNA: Do you feel any pressure being the newest African American host on a network that gets criticized for its lack of diversity?
Sunny: Maybe I’m just living in rose-colored glasses, but when I was working in radio and was just a fan of the network I never said they needed a black person, and I’m black! And I’m a cook and was a caterer at the time.
FNA: What about the criticism that there's not enough diversity in terms of the type of food on the network?
Sunny: I think the diversity of food should happen not based on the way [a host] looks, but just by getting it on the network. So if they need more Asian food, let’s get it.
Sunny, who spent time in Korea and is an admitted Korean food lover, could definitely get a lot of new cuisine on the network. A black woman cooking Asian and German food? I'm down.
Sunny: When I look in the eyes of the executives and people I’m working with I’m not getting any feeling whatsoever that my value is my skin color. I’m getting the feeling that… I feel like they like me [laughing]. I just want to share. I’m happy. And it’s easier to share when you’re happy.
It’s such a weird feeling when someone [who’s black] comes up to you and says, “We’re watching you! Don’t mess this up for us.” Are you serious? I want people to be proud of me, but it’s a weird burden. I’m really hard on myself. I’m not a perfectionist, but I’m always trying to get close. That’s enough stress.
Six episodes of Cooking for Real have been shot, so far. Sunny described the filming process as "the tighest period of a learning curve you'll ever have", as a new host only gets four days to shoot these six initial make-or-break episodes.
FNA: So what’s the next step for you and the show?
Sunny: The next step is just waiting and hoping it does well. I truly hope that the foodies who were listening and the people who are just interested in what I’ve been doing since I left radio will tune in.
Sunny Anderson's Cooking for Real premieres this Sunday, April 6 at 10:30 a.m. E/P on Food Network.
Change of plans. I think I'll wait until tomorrow to post my review of the first episode of Cooking for Real. I've only watched it all the way through once and want to make sure I really absorb the show's vibe. Plus, if you read it on Saturday you'll be more likely to remember on Sunday to tune in.
(All of the above is true. Also, truth be told, I'm kind of DTTW [dead to the world] today. Jared's old friend from St. Louis flew in last night and thought a night of lemon drops would be the perfect way to spend a rainy Thursday. No more shots on weeknights! Ugh...)
Have a good weekend!