Sunny

Sunny Anderson has been on television for years, sharing her bubbly personality and food knowledge with those of us lucky enough to catch her. According to her Food Network bio, the current co-host of The Kitchen has had a rich history and a very unexpected start to her career. Her debut cookbook was a New York Times best-seller, Sunny’s Kitchen: Easy Food for Real Life.

While today she’s known for her dishes inspired by the places she’s lived or visited, as well as homestyle, classics, her meals growing up may not have been quite as glamorous or well-planned. In fact, according to her bio, her start wasn’t in the culinary arts; it was in broadcasting. Do you want to learn more about what one of your favorite chefs was up to before she took the television world by storm? We’re spilling the tea on Sunny and what made her the chef and person she has become today.

Sunny was in the Air Force

Emeril Lagasse

Together We Served, a site that connects Americans who have served their country in the military, published a page on Sunny, describing her as "an Army brat" who used to cook for her parents (albeit irregularly, according to Amo Mama) even at a young age. Sunny joined the Air Force in 1993, but instead of taking to the air, she took to the airwaves, broadcasting on the radio as far as Seoul, South Korea and as close as San Antonio, Texas, choosing a job she could maintain once she was done serving.

They also noted how much she loved music and how her time at New York City’s Hot 97 radio paved the way for her discovery by Food Network — one of her listeners worked for the company and knew she liked to cook and talk, two attributes that make for great food TV. The rest, as they say, was history. Sunny joined Emeril Lagasse on his show Emeril Live in 2005 and her civilian TV career truly took off from there.

She traveled the world

Globe and food

Being an army brat meant Sunny traveled all over the world with her parents. According to BSTV Entertainment, when Sunny wanted to indulge in local delicacies, her parents were nothing but supportive, which explains where her love of food comes from. Having access to all those options, especially when armed with a formidable palate, must have been inspiring.

After the Air Force, her broadcast and radio jobs took her traveling even further because, as they mentioned, she would DJ all over. In an interview on the website of the Military Officers Association of America, Sunny talks about her time in a military family and how it taught her to adapt, a skill that is useful in both broadcast and cooking and one that, no doubt, has helped her become the icon she is today. She was also able to meet all kinds of other military families, which helped her learn about new cultures and the world at large.

She has ulcerative colitis

Abdomen pain

The Mayo Clinic describes ulcerative colitis as "an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in your digestive tract." Sunny began to develop symptoms of the disease when she was just 19 years old. The disease requires a precise diet in order to avoid flare-ups and severe stomach pain.

According the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the best way to maintain issues is to eat small meals throughout the day, drink plenty of fluids (without a straw if you can help it) and avoid things like lactose, fake sugars, sugary foods and spicy foods. Sunny spoke to Everyday Health about how she controls her symptoms, noting she originally attributed her stomach issues to stress before realizing it was something bigger — the Mayo Clinic points out that the condition usually develops gradually, rather than suddenly — and finding what foods would "aggravate her symptoms," and which foods were safer and easier on her digestive system.

She’s an actual inventor (besides recipes)

Football food

Sunny has long been known for her comfort food staples, so it’s no surprise she used her abundant creativity to come up with something to help people out on the day that probably leads to some of the highest junk food consumption throughout the year: Superbowl Sunday. Entrepreneur briefly described Sunny’s foray into her invention of the Infladium, a cooler that inflates to look like a football stadium, but that is actually meant, not as a floaty for your pool, but a place to hold your favorite Superbowl/Football snacks. Coming out in 2018, it was only available in the US (sold by Party City).

WGN Radio‘s Dane Neal spoke to Sunny about the invention which she noted also "comes with a book of all game day recipes featuring five or less ingredients," making game day menu planning and decorating way less stressful, and helping you impress your friends in the process.

She has rescue cats and a rescue dog, too

Napping cat

It’s not surprising that someone who both lived in the midst of the military and served in the army herself would be selfless enough to rescue other living beings, like animals. In mentioning some other things you may not know about Sunny, PopSugar took special note of her adoption of four rescue cats, with appropriately food-inspired names: "Cheddar Cheese, Truffle Tycoon, Milky Mouth, and Sea Salt." Unfortunately, since their story came out, it seems Cheddar passed away, leading Sunny to adopt yet another rescue animal, a dog named Ella Edam, whom she posted about on her Instagram page.

Clearly, Anderson is a woman of many talents, with a complex, intriguing life and personality: pet rescuer, Air Force vet, broadcast alum/pro, and so much more. These are just a few highlights about the effervescent and bubbly chef, but we’re betting there is a lot more behind the curtain, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by her growing legion of fans.