In Food Network America’s worst cookschief Anne Burell saw it all. There have been contestants who have accidentally started fires, mistaken sugar for salt, drank the cooking wine, and even tried to make grilled cheese using a blender. “People have learned a lot about cooking from Food Network,” says Anne Closer. “But luckily not everyone has learned everything. There are still many worse cooks who need my help!
This New York culinary school graduate and restaurateur made her television debut in 2005 as a sous chef on iron boss America. Anne has finally carved out a place for herself as one of the chain’s top cooking teachers. “Being able to cook and speak is a special skill,” admits Anne, 52, who put aspiring home cooks (and sometimes celebrities) through a culinary boot camp on The worst cooks since 2010. The current season will air its thrilling finale on May 29.
How did you get interested in cooking?
My mother was a very good cook and I always liked to help. We planted a large garden every summer. To be able to see things start from seed and grow was great. My mom might say, “Go out and pick some lettuce for dinner, or dig up some potatoes. It was so much fun. Cooking for me has always been like an arts and crafts project with something to eat at the end.
Did you have any culinary heroes?
When I was 3 years old, I went to see my mother and I said to her: “Mom, I have a friend whose name is Julie. Julie Child! I watched it every day on TV. She is still my idol. I kind of feel sympathetic to Julia because we’re both these big, crazy, loud ladies with a particular outlook on things, but with a certain joy in what we do.
When did you decide to be a chef?
I started serving when I was in college because I wanted to buy a car. A week later, I knew I loved the restaurant business. The people were so fun, the camaraderie was great, and I loved the hospitality aspect. After graduating from college, I got a miserable job in a headhunting company. I lasted a year. I was like, “I’m 23 and I’m too young to be this miserable.” That’s when I decided I was going to culinary school. If you weren’t teaching people to cook on TV, what do you think you would be? A therapist! Sometimes I feel like as a chef I’m a therapist because there’s so much to food – emotion, family, vacation, body image.
What are your little culinary pleasures?
Anything from a potato, like fries, crisps, I’m on board! I also love a hot dog!
Do you have treasured family recipes passed down to you?
One recipe that stuck with me since I was a kid is my mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing. It’s a sausage-mushroom stuffing with lots of sage and nuts. When we were little, my sister and I set up this tiny black-and-white TV on the kitchen table and watched Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade while we cut toast for stuffing. I loved being part of it. Every time I do this prank, it brings back those memories.
Do you sometimes miss cooking in a restaurant kitchen?
Sometimes I said yes. I miss the ambiance of a restaurant kitchen, the camaraderie. But then, on other days, I’m like, “No!” I’m happy to just cook in my own kitchen at home.
You got married last year to Stuart Claxton. Do you cook for him a lot?
Yes, I have to marry my prince charming in October! I cook almost every night. Stuart is easy to cook because he loves everything. I can always tell when he really likes something because he’ll take a bite and say “Mmmm” and then with every bite he’ll keep saying it. So if he doesn’t say that, I’m like, “What’s the problem?
What are some of his favorite dishes that you make?
Filipino Chicken Adobo – he loves this one. And anything with pasta. He’s crazy about pasta. Stuart is English, so usually at the weekend I make a big English breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and potatoes fried in grease. bacon.
What’s the best thing about finding your husband later in life?
For the first 20 or so years that I lived in New York, I was so focused on my career. I have never been so determined to have a personal relationship. So finding Stuart at this point in my life has been amazing. I need to establish myself in my career, and now I also have a partner. It’s good. Also, Stuart came into my life with his son Javier, so it’s like I got a 2-for-1 deal. That whole family dynamic has been amazing. I feel like I got it all figured out: I was able to focus on my career, and now I can really put my effort, attention, and love into my marriage.
Who are your closest friends at Food Network?
I’m definitely close to Marc Murphy, Jeff Mauro, Rachel Rayof course, and Alex Guarnaschelli. These are the people I see and talk to regularly.
Do you have a tip for making someone a better home cook?
Find a recipe for whatever you want to make. Read it before you start. Even if you don’t completely stick to it, at least you have a roadmap of where you’re going.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Be serious, but don’t take things too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself and roll with the punches. Be adaptable, because sometimes things don’t turn out the way you thought they would, but sometimes things turn out even better than you expected. And when things don’t go your way, use it as an experiment and don’t make those mistakes again.