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
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
"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
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