Fanny Slater is becoming a quick household name across Wilmington. The winner of Rachael Ray’s Great American Cookbook Challenge, Slater published her debut lip-smacker, “Orange, Lavendar and Figs,” last year. She writes for numerous publications in town, including yours truly and encore’s sister pub, Devour. Plus, her weekly segment on WWAY, “Get Your Fanny in the Kitchen,” showcases recipes for fans to try at home.
On January 15, Slater will be growing her fanbase beyond the Port City in more droves. She’s one of three hosts on the second season of Food Network’s “Kitchen Sink,” which focuses on culinary trends, kitchen hacks, time-saving shortcuts, and over-the-top recipes. We interviewed Slater about the next chapter in her foodie career and how the filming of 12 episodes has brought her in contact with names she admires in the food world, like Jeff Mauro, Katie Lee and Sunny Anderson.
encore (e): First off, congrats! How did you score this show?
Fanny Slater (FS): Why, thank you! Several months back, I got a call from a friend who was a former producer at the “Rachael Ray Show.” She was there during the Great American Cookbook Challenge, and got to know me during the first spark in my career. She currently works for a production company and they were casting for a new Food Network show. Two weeks later, I flew up to New Jersey and auditioned.
The night of my 31st birthday, I got an email that a producer and a programming head from Food Network wanted to set up a call with me the following morning. I assumed it was to let me know I didn’t get the job. Apparently, the television industry doesn’t work like that, and I was offered the spot as cohost on that call. I am still waiting for it to sink in.
e: Tell me about your rapport with your cohosts.
FS: We clicked right away. During the audition process, I remember being on set with Spike [Mendelsohn] and Tregaye [Fraser], and it felt completely natural. We all bring something different to the screen, and when we’re together, it’s a perfect balance of personalities. It’s like a salad with different textures. Tregaye brings a pop of sass, like a pomegranate seed. Spike brings a genuine warmth, like a crispy round of fried goat cheese. And I’m just nuts.
I also couldn’t wait to be on set with Jeff Mauro. He’s one of my favorite Food Network personalities because he blends humor so naturally into everything he’s doing—I admire people who don’t take themselves too seriously. When we finally met and shot an episode together, it was like hanging out with my long lost brother.
I haven’t filmed an episode with Sunny yet, but we became friends after several appearances together on Rachael Ray’s show. She also wrote the blurb on the back of my book, and has been such a wonderful mentor and supporter of my blossoming career. Sunny didn’t realize I got the cohost job, and the day she saw me on set she almost burst into tears. It was an unforgettable moment for me.
e: How is the show valuable to the everyday cook?
FS: We’re showing easy, impressive techniques to take home cooking to the next level. It’s also a great way for foodies to keep up with what’s new and hip in the social world of food.
e: What have been some memorable moments?
FS: Shooting the premiere episode was a big highlight for me because it was my first time filming a Food Network show. It was already exciting and high energy because it was our first episode—but it was extra special for me because I was living my dream. I took a deep breath before the first take, and tried to be as present as possible. Even the wardrobe fitting the first morning was surreal. I caught a peek of myself in the mirror as two different stylists were rolling up my sleeves. I suddenly felt like I was 4 years old again, playing dress up and telling my dad I would have my people call his people.
e: I see you guys cover “kitchen hacks”—what’s been your most successful thus far?
FS: On an episode, Tregaye makes a dozen-egg sandwich in a Bundt pan. It ends up looking like a giant bagel sandwich that gets sliced into wedges. It’s such a brilliant idea to feed a lot of people in an efficient and inexpensive way.
e: What recipe have you offered up and in what context is it best used?
FS: On an episode, I make a layered quesadilla cake with pizzas in between. The whole thing gets wrapped in dough like a cake; it was such a hilariously epic creation. I love the idea of recipe mash-ups, and this one took the cake (pun intended). Many of these recipes would be great for parties since they feed a lot of people, and are filling and impressive. Many of our recipes are foods people are already familiar with, like nachos, and we turn them on their head (like flavoring them as a cheeseburger).
e: Has anything fundamentally changed in the show since you joined?
FS: I’d like to say the silliness meter has gone up a notch or two.
The season premiere airs Sunday, January 15th. It’s not set in stone yet, but I plan on having a viewing party at my favorite place in Wilmington—The Goat & Compass. I’ll have to jet back off later that afternoon in preparation for another week of shooting, but I hope my friends will stay at the bar and celebrate with Bloody Marys and IPAs in my honor.