After all, the Emmy-nominated star of ABC’s Black-ish and host of To Tell the Truth grew up in Compton, lives in Encino, works in Burbank, and likes to eat in Santa Monica. Food drives a lot of activities for the veteran actor (Law & Order, Transformers, The Departed), who also has quite a list of credits—cooking, judging, and of course eating—on the Food Network. But considering that his favorite meal to have in California is served at his own home and prepared by him, Anderson’s next notable role might just be chef. In the meantime, he shared with us some of his favorite places to dine and explore around L.A.
Where do you live? The San Fernando Valley.
Why there? [Because of] the community in Encino, where I live. I moved here because it’s a family-oriented community. I was looking at other places, but I could see my kids riding their bikes down the street. I saw myself getting to know my neighbors. There are farmers’ markets on the weekend. It actually is similar to the neighborhood on Black-ish. And look, I grew up a fan of the Jackson family music, and now I live around the corner from the Jacksons’ estate. I would see the infamous gate on the news all the time growing up and now I pass by it going to the dry cleaners. When I see it, I am like, “I made it! Just a kid from Compton and I made it.”
Who or what is your greatest California love? Growing up here, it’s always been the beaches in California for me. My beaches growing up were Hermosa and Manhattan Beach. I remember getting on the bus, skipping school with a bunch of kids, and riding out to the beach. I’m not an outdoorsy type of guy, but now with kids of my own, we like to get outside.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? People talk about us not being real. I’m like, “What do you mean?” And they’re like, “No, you’re different.” We are the city of dreams, so we have all these dreamers out here trying to make their dreams a reality. But they are not true representations of the people who grew up here. Now, I can take you to the hood and introduce you to the real people of Los Angeles. Because you could be dealing with the transplants. Not that there’s anything wrong with them.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That we’re laid back and chill. And hippies. That we’re all just cool folks, relaxed. That everything is going to be alright.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? We are all foodies in my family. We try to eat some of the best things in the best places. For our big nights out lately, because my daughter has been a vegan for several years now—and I was a vegan, my wife is a vegetarian—our new go-to is a plant-based restaurant called Crossroads on Melrose. And over in Santa Monica we will splurge at Giorgio Baldi.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? Anywhere along the California coastline. We love getting in the car and driving up the coast. We will make a day out of it. There’s nothing better than jumping on the Pacific Coast Highway [aka Highway One] and stopping, well, wherever we decide to stop. And of course, finding new places to eat!
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? For me? It’s simple. A nice bone-in rib eye, lobster mac and cheese, or lobster mashed potatoes. Some steamed veggies and a tall glass of iced tea. At home. You know, I am a lightweight chef on my own. Being on the Food Network and being a judge on Iron Chef America—and competing on that show and competing on Chopped—I’ve gotten to know these world-class, Michelin-star chefs. They’ve given me trade secrets. So my favorite California meal is at home. If I want to go out for it, I hit up Mastro’s in Beverly Hills or Thousand Oaks. That’s my go-to place for my steak.
How do you define California style? Leisurely. Chic. Just because the sun is always shining. So you want to be comfortable, but stylish. The invite may say “black tie,” but you have to be comfortable. And here you can get away with it. That’s how California style works for me.
Best California song? “California Love” by Tupac and Dr. Dre. And “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and The Papas. Let’s think about the dichotomy of that. But “California Love,” [makes me] think about my childhood. The love of my city and state—Compton, in particular. We put that on, and it gets the party started.
How would your California dream day unfold? Hmm. It goes back to what I was saying. Jumping on the PCH. Letting the top down. Let the music play. The water is seldom blue here, but it would be on this day. Then we have a picnic and reflect on life.