If you crossed a high school homecoming queen with a modern-day Betty Crocker, then added a dash of Manhattan socialite you would get Anne Thornton. Not only is she beautiful and talented, witty and funny, but I'm willing to bet that she can put your grandmother's baking to shame. From her days as a pastry chef at one of New York City's most exclusive restaurants, The Waverly Inn, to serving as Event Coordinator and Executive Pastry Chef at Hotel Griffou, Anne recently landed the role of a lifetime, as host of her own series on the Food Network, Dessert First with Anne Thornton.
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Chef Thornton, and am thrilled to share this Q&A.
What time can we expect to tune in to your new Food Network show? I’d love to get my DVR set up!
Dessert First airs every Sunday at 12:00pm ET/PT and 11am CT on Food Network.
I see that you’re a fellow Texan, hailing from San Antonio. Do you still have family in the Lone Star State?
I have two cousins living in Austin, but they are Northern transplants. One was born and raised in Chicago, and the other was born and raised in New York City. I'm the only born Texan in my family.
At what age did you move north?
I moved to Cleveland, where my mother was born and raised, when I was a toddler. But Texas has a very special place in my heart. People always guess I'm from Texas by the way that I look (which I take as a compliment). I guess it's true that you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl and why would you want to?
Which part of the country, North or South, has had the most impact on your style of cooking to date?
I think my cooking style is a mix of the best of Southern, Northern and West Coast cooking. My sister was born in Atlanta, and I was born in Texas, and our father lived in Atlanta until he passed away, so we spent a lot of time down South. My mother loves architecture, antiques and Southern hospitality so we also spent a great deal of time in Savannah and Charleston growing up. Two cities that have amazing food. Our extended family is located in Chicago, Cleveland, and New York City, so I was exposed to the best of the best of Northern food as well. I also lived in California and am a big advocate of eating locally and seasonally. I'm really fortunate to have been influenced by all of the amazing American styles of cooking.
How were you approached for your own series by Food Network?
I made my signature Salted Caramel Banana Pudding Pie for the 2009 New York Wine and Food Festival's 'Sweet' event. The press declared it as the winner and fan favorite. Food Network, who was a major sponsor of the event, called me in for a meeting shortly thereafter. I was really lucky, it came out of the blue for me and all happened very quickly.
How coincidentally fabulous that your first episode aired the weekend before Halloween! Was this done on purpose?
It worked out perfectly. I also have a Thanksgiving show and a Christmas show. Desserts are all about community, sharing, and celebration. On Dessert First I show you how to make simple delicious desserts that have a wow factor that will impress your guests. On my premiere episode I showed viewers how to make spooky and sweet Halloween treats like red velvet brain cupcakes, milk chocolate graveyard cake, and couture caramel apples. The show is all about breakfast desserts. I whip up my finger-licking 'other-worldly sticky buns' drizzled with a gooey cinnamon glaze and royal icing. I’ll also show how to create a make ahead blueberry almond breakfast tart filled with a perfectly flaky crust to serve alongside spiced coffee, a fragrant blend of coffee, cloves and orange zest.
Where does your dessert inspiration come from? How do you keep the customer hungry for more, literally and figuratively?
My inspiration comes from the desserts, flavors, and ingredients I grew up loving. My desserts are comfort food desserts, and who doesn't love comfort food?
What is your favorite-to-make, go-to dessert?
My go-to favorite dessert is my signature dish, salted caramel banana pudding pie.
What is your opinion about the cupcake phenomenon that has taken America (and the world, for that matter) by storm?
I love cupcakes. What is better than cake that you can hold in your hand? I think cupcakes are here to stay, but I think we are going to start to see some new dessert trends. I predict that Parisian macarons will be the next hand-held dessert phenomenon. They are beautiful and easy to eat, like a cupcake, and they are gluten-free.
If you had to choose just one, what would you consider to be your favorite restaurant in New York City?
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Ballato's on East Houston is my staple go-to favorite restaurant. Emilio's Bolognese sauce is heavenly, and his focaccia is crisp on the outside and as light and fluffy as angel food cake on the inside. He is a super-talented chef.
What is your favorite guilty-pleasure cuisine?
I love fried food. I love fried chicken more than any other food on the planet. I like it warm, room temperature or cold. I love any and everything fried. I have an entire episode dedicated to this delicious and decadent method of cooking. My deep-fried cookie dough with fleur de sel is worth living for, and you'll be able to get the recipe after it airs on November 21, 2010.