sunny anderson_web.jpgHer bright personality shone through the phone line. Her easy tone, hearty laughter denote a down-to-earth self-confidence.

Her proper inflection and grammar speak well to her radio disc jockey years and why she is now a host of a Food Network show. Meet Sunny Anderson.

The host of Cooking for Real is coming to the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival, on Feb.  24-27.

Making her third appearance, Anderson will perform a cooking demonstration on The Best Thing I Ever Ate At the Beach with Duff Goldman, who hosts the Food Network show, Ace of Cakes. The spot is a spinoff of the Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, in which national chefs give an account of why meals or individual foods qualify as the best thing they have eaten.

The Army brat turned United States Air Force personnel turned radio host turned caterer has seemingly done everything to make a perfect recipe for a Food Network host.

At least that’s what Lee Brian Schrager , the founder and director of the 10-year-old festival,  believes.

“I had seen her on TV and I knew she was going to be a great name and a great addition to the festival,” Schrager said. “Sunny is a perfect name for her.  She’s always happy, very accessible. She is kind of like that girl next door.”

Anderson grew up in Germany, considers bratwurst and French fries her favorite foods and likes any food that’s fried. She is also weak at the knees for her grandmother’s cooking; her grandmother inspired her to cook and share her food with others.

She went to high school in San Antonio and then joined the U.S. Air Force, where she worked in radio and TV, until she was honorably discharged as a senior airman in 1997.

She worked for 10 years as radio personality, ending at HOT 97 (WQHT) in New York City in 2005. While there, she launched Sunny’s Delicious Dishes in  2003 and worked at it for two years.

Anderson first appeared on the Food Network in 2005 when she cooked with Emeril Lagasse on Emeril Live, which, she said, was such a rush she “didn’t want to leave the kitchen.” In 2007, she co-hosted the Food Network series Gotta Get It, introducing viewers to food gadgets.

On Cooking For Real, which airs every day, with new episodes on Saturday mornings, she shares secrets of how to take traditional soul food and make it simple, yet flavorful and modern.

Anderson said she got involved with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival because of the charity component, as well as the chance to hang out with other foodies.

“It is a charity event. The money you spend on this event goes to students who love the same things you do,” she said. “If people can see it as giving back, they would see that it is worth it to spend a part of their savings to go. Lee has done a great job and The Neelys have the line on that.”

The festival’s proceeds benefit Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. The Kohl’s Fun and Fit as a Family, featuring Kellogg’s Kidz Kitchen, one of the most inexpensive events of the weekend, benefits the chef charity Share Our Strength. Held all day at Jungle Island, Fit as a Family costs $20 per person.

Shena Corrado, student program manager for the festival at FIU, said though the festival is popular, a lot of people may not realize that when they buy a ticket they are supporting local student scholarships.

“People are not that aware even though we do try [to make it known],” Corrado said. ”And we do try to make the event one where FIU students are actually involved in creating. Once patrons of any event know the proceeds benefit the community, they feel a personal corporate responsibility.”

Anderson believes her presence on television is helping to generate interest in programs such as hers and in events such as the food and wine festival.

“We see someone that we can relate to and whom we can relate to externally that we internally love,” she said. “It is important to people of color to feel like there is going to be something there to take it over the top and make it a must-see. I see more and more people of color but it’s going to take time to get them to know this festival is worth it to take time off, to take a long weekend.”

She doesn’t think of herself as famous.

“I am just a person with a job,” she said. “I think of people who are famous and I don’t think I can be famous. When I go out and people say hi or that they watch the show, that just tells me, ‘Good job.’”

Carolyn Guniss may be reached at