Anthony Anderson played a Boston detective in “The Departed,” which won an Academy Award for best picture in 2007, but he never got to dine out while filming in the city. “That’s the one thing that I wish did happen. We hit the ground running when we were in Boston and I was only there for I think a week and it was strictly on set,” says the actor-comedian who has also appeared in “Transformers” and “Me, Myself & Irene,” and starred on “Law & Order.” “I always said I would be back but I haven’t been back to Boston since production, and that was years ago.” Anderson may have a chance to see what Boston cooking is all about, thanks to his new Web series, “Anthony Eats America,” in which he travels around the country cooking with locals. He didn’t make it to Boston while filming the currently airing season, but says the producers are planning a future visit. “Hopefully we’re going to bring the show there and find somebody there and get to experience it that way, because that’s one of the cities that’s on our list,” he says. The show, which is made up of three- to five-minute episodes, premiered July 3 on the AOL On Network.
Q. How do you balance traveling for the show with your acting schedule?
A. We really didn’t know how it was going to be, and since I am so busy traversing the country anyway, we just looked at what my schedule was and put together a filming schedule around where I would be. So I’m in North Carolina for the BMW Pro-Am charity golf event for a week, while I’m there we put together a show. I’m in Miami for the film festival, our producer puts a local crew together wherever we are and our producer and director fly out, and we end up interviewing a Miami Dolphins cheerleader and cooking with her at the stadium in one of the luxury suites. So we found an ingenious way to say, OK, I’m going to be traveling, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to have a free day or two while I’m here, let’s shoot a show there.
Q. How do you find the people you cook with?
A. Originally it was just word of mouth or previous relationships with my producers, but now people send stuff to us, you know, “Hey, you thought you had some good barbecue in Austin, you need to come here for this,” or “You need to see my mother, come down to Florida.” And people that have seen the show are like, “Hey Ant, I’ve got some great people that you can contact.” It’s a lot easier now.
Q. What is your cooking background?
A. No training whatsoever — other than the fact that I’m the oldest of four children. One day, my mother came home when I was around 11 or 12 and decided that she wasn’t going to cook for us anymore. She wanted to devote her time to playing Bingo. So it really started out of necessity. Literally, it was like, “I’m not cooking, uh, your dad’s going to need something to eat when he gets home so go in the kitchen and figure it out. I’m off to Bingo.” Then I just figured out my way around the kitchen and things that I liked and kind of perfected that. Then, I’d invite friends over when I was older and share with them things that I loved. Out of that, you meet people, you share recipes. I’ve become friends with Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, chef Mike Symon from doing “Iron Chef America” and other events, and they help you along the way. One day, I just want to take a year off from working and devote myself, just go to culinary school, travel, and learn, just to get some technical training.
Q. What are your specialties?
A. I make great oxtail stew, and I braise some short ribs for four or five hours. Those are two of my comfort food dishes that I make for people when they come by, my two go-tos. For those of my friends who don’t eat red meat, I take a small turkey and I’ll cut the spine out, butterfly it basically, and brine it overnight. Then I’ll put it on the grill and not really smoke it but cook it with indirect heat for a couple of hours. I may throw some wood chips onto the charcoal just to give it a little more barbecue flavor and that’s delicious, man. I got that recipe from Sunny Anderson and I cooked that for Thanksgiving once and that was the first thing that was devoured.
Q. What do you want audiences to get out of the show?
A. It’s not really a how-to show or a recipes show — we do post the recipes online so they can get the recipes if they like the dish that they’re seeing — but they just get a little insight into these chefs’ lives. Basically what they’re getting out of it is somebody that shares their same passion for cooking, like-minded people, and hopefully some entertainment value with me facilitating the show. We have a lot of fun.
Interview was condensed and edited. Glenn Yoder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org