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Anthony Sedlak Interview

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By Malcolm Jolley

Anthony Sedlak is the host of 'The Main', one of Food Network Canada's most popular cooking shows, now airing its second season. Gremolata's Malcolm Jolley interviewed Sedlak just as his new book, The Main Recipes comes to print.

Gremolata: Tell me about your new book.

Anthony Sedlak: The book is unique in that it follows the premise of the show, which is one main ingredient – simple stuff, not over the head of anybody. It's really to give the reader a chance to be creative with the things they already have. It's a collection of recipes from all for seasons of the main, and has incredible photography, which I think is so elemental to a great cookbook. It's about how too find fresh ingredients, store them, I talk about seasonality and then I add my little tips and tricks of the trade, that I write for each recipe. There's also the inspiration where each recipe came from - these aren’t just any recipes, they're things that are really close to my heart, like things my grandmother made.

Gremolata: How do you choose the ingredients?

Anthony Sedlak: Well there's all the recipes form the shows, so that helps. But I like something simple and unique like onions. We actually have a whole show on onions, and that might sound sort of mundane, but every recipe starts with onions. Green onions, red onions, shallots, garlic: they're all extensions of the theme. When we pick an ingredient, there are almost endless recipe possibilities.

Gremolata: You're trained as a professional chef, but the food you cook on your show is very homey. Is that a challenge?

Anthony Sedlak: Sure. Sometimes I get inspired to do a recipe, and one of the chefs we work with will say "Hey, we need to bring this down a little bit."

Gremolata: And you started professional cooking as a kid because of snowboarding, right?

Anthony Sedlak: Yeah. What happened was I lived at the foot of Grouse Mountain, which is the local ski resort in North Vancouver. And my parents were always adamant about if I wanted something, I had to go out and make the money to get it. So my mum said, "If you want to get a snowboard pass, why don't you get a job there bussing?" I was only 13, and I think the legal working age is something like 14, but somehow I got hired and started bussing tables. What I liked about the job at first wasn't food. It was the working environment. I loved working with people older than me. They were cool, they were hip. These guys had tattoos and would slip me a beer once and a while! They were sort of like older siblings. And to be honest, I was a sort of a keener, in the sense that if somebody had a job, I'd be like, "yeah, show me how to do that!" So everybody won: I learned lots and they got a hand doing their work.

Gremolata: And it was the kitchen, the back of the house, where you ended up.

Anthony Sedlak: Yup. The back of the house, from bussing. There are three restaurants on the Mountain, ,and each is a step up from the other, so over the course of 11 years there was always another job and new experience for me to try. I started as a busboy and left as Executive Chef of the dining room.

Gremolata: And somewhere in there you went to cook at La Trompette in London.

Anthony Sedlak: A totally different ballgame in terms of cooking. Eighteen hours a day – a very rockstar-like lifestyle, if you know what I mean. Very, very hard, hard cooking. One of the hardest things I've every done, because I went by myself. Imagine 12 guys working 18 hours a day and someone new shows up. The last thing they're going to do is give you a hand. In fact they're going to try and sabotage you. It was really three month before I could show these guys, yeah, I can cook. And I actually worked my way up to executive sous-chef through hard work and perseverance. But you know, when I left Vancouver I was 240 pounds, and by the time I came back from London I was 180 – very gaunt looking. Still, I learned more in my two years in London than at any other tie in my career.

Gremolata: OK, so you come back to Vancouver and are cooking at The Observatory at Grouse Mountain, then you end up on Food Network's big TV competition, Superstar Chef Challenge. How did that happen?

Anthony Sedlak: Oh, I didn't want to partake in something like that! I was my girlfriend who saw the ad. I was working tin the kitchen so much I wasn't watching a lot of TV. So, anyway the commercial said to send in your demo video and the deadline came and went, and then I guess they extended it. So my girlfriend kept saying, "Why don't you do it?" So, the day before the deadline I finally said, "OK, what are the chances anyway."

I had done a video interview for a website that promoted young people doing trade work and I had cooked something for him, so I called the guy up. And he said, "Well, it's not really even edited…" I thought, ok, I get it, what you want? So for dinner for him and his girlfriend he edited the tape and sent it in. Within a week I got the call.

Gremolata: And set for a whole new career.

Anthony Sedlak: Yeah. A lot of it was luck. I have been very lucky, but I think I've been able to make some of my lucky trying to be around people who are better than me all the time. It inspires me to do better.

The thing is, when you win Superstar Chef Challenge, you don't automatically get a show. You win the opportunity to sit down with Food Network execs to talk about the idea of having a TV show. So, I came back to Toronto with Me, Myself and I into a totally corporate environment, which I am not used to having only worked in kitchens – different world for me. The y asked me a lot of questions, and I just went for it and told them my story and what I'd like to do. And, I can really become a kind of chatterbox. I remember at the end of the meeting one of them saying, "We're always worried that the host won't be able to talk their way through a show, but we think you might talk too much!"

Gremolata: I'm guessing you're in your 20s?

Anthony Sedlak: 25.

Gremolata: So, then did you watch Food Network when you were in your teens?

Anthony Sedlak: Completely.

Gremolata: Do you think you reference that? You're the from first generation of TV Chefs who actually watched Food TV growing up.

Anthony Sedlak: I don't know. I think I just really like talking about food. Even in the kitchen, if we're doing something new, we all stand around I'll explain what's happening. And we talk about making mayonnaise, or whatever. So from that, it's sort of a natural transition. I just love talking about food. I just do.


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