Lunch and Dinner Delights: Interview with Chef Anne Thornton

Chef Anne Thornton
Chef Anne Thornton made a name for herself on Food Network's “Dessert First.”

Chef Anne Thornton made a name for herself on Food Network’s “Dessert First.” Known for her sweet and savory vegan dishes, her creations have been showcased on TV, served in some of NYC’s top restaurants, and are now available on CookUnity. Anne is regarded as a vault of knowledge concerning plant-based substitutes; she’s also an expert at veganizing everyday dishes.

Born in San Antonio and raised in Cleveland, Anne fell in love with food at a very young age while traveling throughout Europe with her family. She spent many childhood days in the kitchen alongside her grandmother, Nonnie, who she credits as her true culinary inspiration and where she gets her passion for baking. Anne went on to graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with degrees in finance and philosophy. Shortly after college, she lived in California, and then Chicago while working for Apple Computer, Inc. Anne left Chicago and moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. Soon after enrolling in the Institute of Culinary Education, Anne landed a job in culinary production where she gained behind-the-scenes media skills — a glimpse into her future at Food Network. Anne had since worked at some of New York’s most exclusive restaurants. She also volunteers for City Harvest’s Operation Frontline, a nutrition education and financial planning program, and writes for LunchNYC, a project that brings nutritional information to families about their kid’s school lunches and how they can improve their diets.

Besides cooking and baking, Anne enjoys sailing, writing, football, fashion, interior design and visiting organic farms. She recently discussed her career via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for cooking and which desserts are your personal favorites?

Anne Thornton (AT): I learned to cook from my grandmother who was an amazing baker and cook. She did everything without measurements and it always turned out perfectly. I don’t have a big sweet tooth, so I like salty sweet treats best. Right now, my vegan chocolate fudge with fleur de sel is my favorite dessert. I’m hoping to work with CookUnity to distribute it throughout the country. It’s a delicious and decadent gluten free vegan treat.

MM: How was your grandmother—and childhood trips to Europe—so impactful for you?

AT: Being exposed to other cultures via travel and friends from different nationalities and races expanded my palate and made me a curious and non-judgemental eater. You can learn almost everything about a society by the origin stories of their food. One of my favorite things about being on the CookUnity platform is that their are so many different cuisines available. You can taste the world from the comfort of your home when you can’t be traveling

MM: Why did you decide to focus on vegan cooking per se?

AT: My entire menu for CookUnity is vegan and gluten-free, because I want the food I create to be healing for the planet and the consumer. I also am a futurist and believe that plant-based food is the future of food and I love being on the cutting edge of my art.

MM: You have worked in restaurants but also have a big presence on TV. What appeals to you about the marriage between food and media?

AT: The more people see food being made the more likely they are to try to cook themselves or at least try different types of food. I love how many people are sharing their recipes and cooking hacks on social media. I think it’s wonderful how creative people are and that they can so easily share it with others. There’s truly limitless talent in the world.

MM: How did you find out about CookUnity and how did it help you during the pandemic?

AT: Actually, my former (and all-time favorite) boss from The Waverly Inn (15+ years ago) John DeLucie introduced me to CookUnity. He’s been very successful on the platform in NYC and was singing CookUnity’s praises. I’m so grateful to him for the introduction, and now we actually share a team here in LA, led by the incomparable chef Nora.

MM: What was the best part of working with the Food Network?

AT: I hadn’t done any TV before they offered me the show, so I discovered how much I loved being on camera while sharing my recipes and encouraging people to try to bake and cook at home.

MM: What are your ultimate career goals?

AT: I would love to have my CookUnity meals and products available across the country and the world. My goal is to help as many people as possible deliciously and painlessly eat more plants. Thanks to CookUnity and my amazing team I’ve recently been able to get back to writing, which is my first love.

MM: What is coming up next for you and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

AT: I’m excited to be launching our new Spring/Summer menu on CookUnity and utilizing all the gorgeous nutrient-dense produce California has to offer this time of year. Also, my friend the nutritionist Elissa Goodman and I will be starting a monthly plant-based lunch series in LA at the end of May.