Anne Burrell / With her bleached, spiky blond hair, Anne Burrell is Food Network’s female version of Guy Fieri. She has her own series, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and co-hosts Worst Cooks in America, which puts home cooks through culinary bootcamp. But Burrell has a serious cooking background: She was a chef at various New York restaurants and worked alongside Mario Batali, both in the kitchen and on the television kitchen stage on Iron Chef America. She comes to Oahu this weekend for the Hawai’i Wine and Food festival at Ko Olina. The Weekly asked Burrell about her adventures and for some restaurant chef secrets.
You’ve been in a lot of different aspects in the culinary world…which do you like better: Cooking in a restaurant, cooking on TV or being a cooking instructor?
Each facet of the industry has brought something different to my career and contributed to the fabric that is Anne Burrell. Each opportunity has been equally valuable to making me who I am today. But I do miss working in restaurants and hope to return to a restaurant kitchen someday soon.
Why did you decide to pursue a TV career instead of staying in restaurants?
Well, because the Food Network asked me…and I feel incredibly lucky to have been asked.
How was it being on the Iron Chef stage? And how was it working with Mario Batali?
Doing ICA [Iron Chef America] is every bit as stressful as it seems but of course, it’s also super fun. Working with Mario is always an exciting experience.
What’s the best or most useful secret of a restaurant chef?
Taste your food and it should taste good. Remember that being a restaurant chef is a service job. It’s all about the hospitality and making food that tastes good.
Most useful advice for a bad cook?
Get cookbooks, read them, practice, taste your food and remember to have fun.
Anyone you really wish you could take under your wing and give cooking lessons to?
The beautiful thing about Secrets of a Restaurant Chef is that I get to teach lots of people. The information is there for people who want to use it. I love cooking with kids though, so I do wish that I could spend more time doing that.
How did you decide to go to Italy for your culinary training?
Well, the opportunity arose when I graduated from culinary school. I found a way to get there that was really affordable and I’ve always loved Italy. How could I say no? When I got there it wasn’t at all like I expected. I assumed Italian food was all about huge bowls of pasta with tomato sauce and lots of pizza. I learned that there is so much more to Italian cooking and it was an amazing experience for me.
How was the restaurant kitchen in Italy different from the New York restaurant kitchens you’ve worked in?
There is just a completely different pace in Italy. The restaurants open later, they serve fewer people, the staff is smaller, which actually means that each person on the line ends up working a lot harder.
Is there a cuisine you’d like to learn more about?
I’d love to learn more about South East Asian cuisine. I love the bright, clean flavors.