If you ask Anthony Anderson when it was that he became a self-proclaimed foodie, he’ll tell you that it happened sometime around the moment he was approached to be a celebrity guest judge for Food Network’s Iron Chef America. “When I first heard that term,” he says, “I thought, ‘Hey, that’s me!’”
As it turns out, he was right. After twenty years of steady work as an actor in films such as Transformers and The Departed, Anderson’s keen palate got him noticed during his first appearance on the deus. “I was scheduled to do one show, and because I had such a great time, they asked me to stay and do a second show, and then a third show, and now I’ve been a staple there for the last five years,” Anderson says of his stint on Iron Chef. “I love it.”
The truth is, though, Anderson’s passion for food started long before he was appearing on TV, back when he was just a viewer like the rest of us. When Anderson was twelve years old, his mother left him in charge of making family dinner one night while she went to play Bingo. “We had no petty cash laying around,” he says, laughing, “So I could only cook what was in the fridge.” Luckily, Anderson had just seen an episode of Julia Child on which she was roasting a chicken. He followed her example, stuffing a chicken with lemons and oranges from the trees in his family’s backyard, and then slathering it with butter. “I roasted that thing for an hour and a half until it was golden brown, and served it with potato flakes out of a box, canned corn, and some Pillsbury biscuits. When my dad found out I made it, he just said, ‘What are you cooking tomorrow?’”
Since then, Anderson has leveraged his love of food into a full time career, going from watching food TV to making food TV. In his latest project, Food Network’s Eating America with Anthony Anderson, the actor will be traveling to food festivals across the country, sampling the best homemade cuisine each has to offer. “These are more than just Big Mama’s favorite recipes,” he explains. “These are recipes that these cooks make a living with.”
But when it comes to the dishes, Anderson doesn’t pick favorites, and doesn't believe American cuisine can be boiled down to a Top Five List. “There’s a food festival every weekend in America, 52 weeks a year, and I assume they’re all great, because I’ve had nothing but great experiences so far.” What about weirdest food he’s tried so far? “Strawberry ravioli, which I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but it turned out to be delicious.”
There has been a big fuss about a resurgence of Americans’ interest in food over the past decade, what with the wild success of such shows as Iron Chef America, Top Chef, and Chopped, and the advent of the term “food porn.” But to Anthony Anderson, it’s all wrapped up in the same story of great, diverse American food he's heard about since childhood.
“This is something I’ve always been a part of,” he says, referring to his days of watching Julia Child on public access. “American cuisine is ever evolving, ever growing, and as it evolves more people are becoming interested, looking for something new, something different.”
Eating America With Anthony Anderson premieres Monday, July 28th at 9/8 Central.