Sunny Anderson doesn't have your typical chef credentials. A self-taught cook, the Food Network star began whipping up dishes while living abroad as an Air Force member and later, while working as a hip-hop radio DJ.
Whether it's spicy Southern classics or comfort food bites, her recipes rely on ingredients you typically already have in your pantry. This time of year, that means Superbowl snacks of "dippable stuff" like chips and pretzels, she says, with "guacamole being a must!"
Anderson sat down with Chef Judy Joo to talk about her fondness for fun, easy-to-make food.
You've been a host on Food Network for over ten years now. What's your greatest memory?
It always goes back to the first time, when I was a guest on Emeril Live in 2005. I was a caterer in NYC, and he was using one of my recipes, and I didn't know if I would get to cook with him or just sit at that little side table on the set. When he called me up, a fire was lit inside me and has been lit ever since.
How did you first get into cooking?
I was stationed at an Air Force base in Seoul, South Korea. There was no food delivery, I lived far from the mess hall and had no car. So I started cooking like my mom and dad because being so far from home, the familiar flavors were like a friend. But I ate the local food and fell in love with it as well. I turned that passion for home cooking and new tastes into a catering business, Sunny's Delicious Dishes.
How would you describe your typical cooking style?
I do food that's easy, quick, inexpensive and approachable. The TV landscape is filled with classically trained chefs, but I speak the language of an everyday cook. I don't chiffonade, I make thin strips. And I'm not trying to prove anything. I can make pancakes, but I don't mind a store-bought shortcut of pancake mix.
What do you love to whip up at home?
Breakfast, so I guess bacon gets the most action in my kitchen. Is it breakfast without bacon?
Your Infladium food stadium has been selling out everywhere. Where did you get the idea for it?
I'm a football and tailgating fan, and I wanted to fix the problems I was seeing with the homemade snack stadiums. I thought, why can't I just buy one? So I began to sketch and research. It took plenty of work, but I'm so happy I stuck with my idea.
What advice would you give to young chefs who are looking for a TV career?
The goal shouldn't be television. It wasn't my goal and it worked for me. I wanted to help others find ways to get everyday food on the table and get people excited about things that excite me. So ask yourself: What do you want from a TV career? Then figure out how to get that vibe without it. If it doesn't happen, you're still getting the results you wanted.
What Food Network show have you most enjoyed appearing on?
Beat Bobby Flay because he's a consummate professional.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Frozen candy bars or a dinner of appetizers at a national fast-casual restaurant. But any time I don't cook, I feel really guilty.
Follow Chef Judy Joo on Instagram @Judyjoochef