Raleigh native Fanny Slater, known for her “Orange, Lavender & Figs: Deliciously Different Recipes From a Passionate Eater” cookbook and for her former Food Network TV show “Kitchen Sink,” will be back on TV soon, appearing in three upcoming episodes of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Cooking Channel.
Her first appearance comes Monday, in an episode that features a catfish and grits dish from PinPoint, a Wilmington restaurant that specializes in local seasonal food. We talked to Slater, calling from her home in Wilmington, about her appearance on the show, her current projects and the places she eats when she’s back in Raleigh.
Picking a ‘life changer’
“Best Thing I Ever Ate,” which originated on the Food Network and then migrated to the sister network Cooking Channel, features famous chefs, cookbook authors and food personalities talking about the best food they ate in various categories.
Monday’s episode is titled “Life Changers,” and Slater had very personal reasons for picking PinPoint’s catfish and grits dish. It’s the dish she used to introduce her northern relatives attending her Wilmington wedding to something they hadn’t likely been exposed to – expertly prepared southern cuisine.
“They’re not gonna know what the hell to do with it, but they’re all gonna just have to trust me,” Slater told the chef at PinPoint when picking out the menu last year. “And they all just went nuts for it and loved it. It was a life-changing thing.” .”
Slater said the foodies touting their favorite meals on the show aren’t always at the restaurant when the film crew goes to shoot, but since she lives in the same town as the restaurant she pitched, she got to be on location for filming.
“It was nice to be able to be in the restaurant and not just be in a studio talking about the dish, but to be eating it and talking about it at the restaurant,” she said.
A sample menu on the Pinpoint website lists Slater’s favorite dish as “Crisp Smoked NC Catfish with leek-creamed antebellum grits, crisp Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, green tomato slaw, and lemon brown butter. 26.”
More episodes of ‘Best Thing’
Slater will be on two more episodes of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” this season, but the network did not have the air dates available.
One episode is about “best sandwiches” and Slater picked a sandwich shop in Springfield, N.J., where her father and grandparents are from and where her grandmother still lives.
“This little sandwich shop, it’s called Millburn’s Deli, it’s five minutes away from her and it’s one of those things I’ve been eating my whole life.”
As with Pinpoint, Slater got to be on location for that shoot as well.
“We just happened to be up north for a visit at the time the camera crew was there so my grandma and I got to be on camera eating the sandwiches, and she just loved that.”
Slater did not get to be on site for the filming of her third episode, which featured a panko crusted ahi sushi dish in Hawaii, where her sister has lived for 14 years. “It would have been nice to go to all of the restaurants ... but unfortunately I didn’t make it out there.”
Where Slater eats in Raleigh
Slater grew up in Raleigh, went to Ravenscroft and even stayed in town for college, graduating from Peace College (now William Peace University). She left North Carolina for about a year and a half, to try out an acting career in Hollywood, but fell in love with food and moved back east – to Wilmington – and became a cookbook author and Food Network star.
Her parents still live in North Raleigh, so she visits often and has her go-to spots.
The first place she hits is usually Boondini’s sandwich shop on Six Forks Road.
“It’s just this quirky little sub shop – I actually wrote about them in my cookbook because I love them so much,” Slater said. “I love their chicken salad sandwich, so usually when I get back into town, that’s the first place I go. When I moved to California I would come home so often and would go to Boondini’s, that the people there who knew me and knew I was a regular, didn’t even know that I had moved out of state because they saw me so often.”
When the whole family goes out, they keep it old school, dining at a North Raleigh landmark: Margaux’s, a restaurant with a 25-year history, located on Creedmoor Road.
Also in North Raleigh, Slater loves Nina’s, an Italian restaurant on Lead Mine Road.
“These are places I grew up going to,” Slater said. “It’s incredible food, always consistently good – but just places you just don’t hear about as much.”
If she ventures from North Raleigh into downtown, Slater says she has to get a chicken biscuit at Beasley’s Chicken + Honey.
What she’s up to
Slater is currently a food writer in Wilmington and works on recipe development projects for food companies. But she says being on camera again is a goal.
“I used to do these fun little tip-of-the-week videos years ago, and I kind of stopped doing them for a while,” she said. “But I think I’m going to start something like that back up again, just to put myself in front of the camera and have fun with that until the next thing comes along.”
How to watch ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’
New episodes of “Best Thing I Ever Ate” air Mondays at 8 p.m. on the Cooking Channel. The first episode featuring Slater airs on Monday, Jan. 8.