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Getting Fresh with Anna Olson in Vancouver


Posted by : Anonymous, Wed, Jun 04 2008

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At the EAT! Vancouver festival, I had the pleasure of meeting with not just one Food Network celebrity chef, but two! Bob Blumer and Anna Olson! Anna Olson (who said that this was her day off!) was open, inviting and sweeter than her old TV show Sugar. I became an instant fan.

During her demo, Anna whipped up three dishes: pork tenderloin with pecans and a brown sugar-mustard glaze, a dressing for a club sandwich and a strawberry-almond smoothie, making everything look effortless. While cooking she mentioned how she always wanted to do a show on the most unlikely of fruits, the prune! The Food Network brass, however, said people would turn the channel immediately in horror, so on her new show Fresh, she's itching to push the prune envelope. I mean, really, how can you not love a woman who champions the lowly prune?

I met Anna backstage and she set up some chairs for our interview. I was getting a sense that this wasn't just going to be a snappy interview session but a conversation between friends. I gleaned all kinds of things from Anna; how she turns a standard recipe like lemon meringue pie into her own (it involves trying differing techniques and lots and lots of pies), and how she develops new recipes (all new recipes start out on paper before she starts cooking).

In Fresh, Anna opens her kitchen and home to a film crew. She takes great care to show viewers an authentic experience.

"Fresh is opening the front door to my home. It's the way I eat at home. It's the way I entertain. And the guests are real people, not art-directed. They are my real friends and family."

I asked Anna about her mantra of "eat fresh, eat local" and what it means to her. She said she likes to take a common sense approach to local produce and says it all comes down to respecting the ingredients.

"As a professional chef it means putting your ego in check and at home it means looking at the ingredients for what they are and not masking them with heavy sauces or too many ingredients. When you are buying asparagus now and buying it as local as possible, it doesn't need anything but a little bit of butter or olive oil and salt and pepper."

She says that she often will go to one of the many local farmers markets in her area (Port Dalhousie, ON) and comes back with all kinds of fresh produce. Thrilled with the local bounty, Anna and her husband (Chef Michael Olson) will often skip the main course, concentrating instead on just prepping the local vegetables with fresh herbs. She jokes that she's "talked herself out of a job" because it's just that easy.

Mentioning that I had just bought a huge bag of pea shoots for $1 in Chinatown, I asked Anna what should I do with them. After figuring out that they weren't the tender baby ones that would be ideal for salad, Anna suggested sautéing them over medium high heat with a little vegetable oil, salt and pepper or go for that favourite Asian combo of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger.

Anna's suggestion for the pea shoots was a good one. Although I used shallots instead of garlic, they were delicious. After that impromptu recipe, I can't wait to delve further into her recipe archives.

Want more of Anna?Check out videos and full episodes of Fresh.

Jeannette Ordas is a Vancouver-based Web Designer and Food Blogger who is probably right now thinking about what she'll make for dinner.   

Posted: Wed, Jun 04 2008 by Anonymous

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