Itâ€™s been a banner year for Lake Forest resident and chef Addie Gundry: New marriage, new house, and under her top? An adorable baby bump. â€śItâ€™s a boy!â€ť she beams, the blue of her eyes bright as the flowers in the scarf sheâ€™s wearing. And thatâ€™s not all.
On June 4, Gundry will compete against 12 other contestants from around the country on the new season of Food Network Star, for a chance to win the networkâ€™s biggest prize: her own cooking show.
â€śTo me, being selected by Food Network to compete on Food Network Star is one of the greatest honors and accomplishments in the culinary world,â€ť says Gundry. â€śTheyâ€™re ultimately saying they believe the 13 of us who have been selected among thousands of candidates have the culinary experience, credibility and personality to be a leading source of inspiration for others who are learning to cook.â€ť
The opportunity to inspire new learners is one Gundry takes very seriously because the unconventional path that brought to this moment in her career was lined with mentors. Born and raised in Minnesota to parents who moved a lot, Gundryâ€™s early fascination with cooking had to be satisfied largely through reading.
â€śMy family didnâ€™t cook, but I was a real bookworm, and my favorite subject was physics, so I was always studying recipes,â€ť says Gundry. â€śThe science behind baking and cooking was fascinating to meâ€”why certain ingredients worked with one another, what made cooking techniques work. Also, I think having a family that didnâ€™t cook made me want that more. I vowed one day I would have my own recipe box full of great recipes.â€ť
Soon after that vow, Gundryâ€™s discovery of the world of Martha Stewart led to a sequence of fairy-tale-like events that took her where she is today.
â€śI was attending a girlsâ€™ boarding school and my roommate and I just fell in love with Martha Stewart! We had a whole Martha Stewart wall in our room just covered with pages we tore out of her magazine,â€ť she laughs. â€śBeautiful food, and parties and dresses and crafts. It was a window into this entire world of gorgeousness I found so inspiring. Martha made it feel so accessible. I think thatâ€™s when I really started thinking about a career in food and publishing.â€ť
After boarding school, Gundry did two years of liberal arts college in Connecticut, a six-month culinary school program at Auguste Escoffier, and an internship at a three-Michelin-star restaurant in France before working with top fine dining chefs Chistian Etienne and Daniel Boulud. After supporting the opening of Bouchon Beverly Hills and Bar Bouchon, Gundry was offered the opportunity to work with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in New York City.
While there, â€śI was learning so much, but the work was really intense, really hard. And I still had this crazy dream of wanting to work for Martha Stewart,â€ť says Gundry. â€śOne dayâ€”and Iâ€™ll never forget it, it was just pouring rainâ€”I just took my resume and walked over to Martha Stewartâ€™s offices and handed them my resume. I said Iâ€™d take a receptionist job, anything.â€ť
While nothing came of that visit, Gundryâ€™s desire to absorb as much as she could of both the back-and front-of-house experiences at Thomas Kellerâ€™s restaurants put Kellerâ€™s wife Laura Cunningham in a mentoring role with Gundry.
â€śShe taught me so much.â€ť says Gundry. â€śAnd one day, in walked this woman who was close friends with Laura and happened to be working at Martha Stewart.â€ť
One thing led to another and when a job opened up at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia shortly after, Gundry filled the post.
â€śIt really was a dream come true,â€ť says Gundry. â€śMartha Stewart gave me the more diverse experience I longed for, working for a larger branded media and merchandising company that still focused their editorial content and experiences around food.â€ť
While full-time there, Gundry says she wore many hatsâ€”doing everything from making eggnog at Marthaâ€™s home for the holidays to talking with editors about creative content for Martha Stewart Living to ordering flowers and organizing events.
At about this time, Gundry got a phone call from Food Network asking if she was interested in competing on the October 2015 Halloween Special of Alton Brownâ€™s W. Not only did she have a blast doing that show, she won it.
â€śIt was so much fun!â€ť says Gundry. â€śDoing that is what sparked me to move forward with doing more shows and becoming more public.â€ť
As part of that, Gundry started her blog easyelegantentertaining.com and has been busy since her move back to the Midwest. As the Executive Producer for Prime Publishing, a lifestyle publishing company with 39 culinary and craft web platforms, newsletters and e-books, she oversees creative content development
Gundry has another assignment thatâ€™s bringing everything full-circle. â€śIâ€™m now writing a series of 24 cookbooks,â€ť she explains. Coming out this summer from St. Martinâ€™s Griffin, each of the books will feature 103 best-of recipes, from family-favorite casseroles, to no-bake desserts, to everyday dinner ideas.
â€śItâ€™s amazing how all of this has come together,â€ť she says. â€śThe show, the books, the blogâ€¦ I love to share what Iâ€™ve learned about food, and one thing Iâ€™ve really seen is thatâ€” in the same way that Martha Stewart knew how to take beautiful things and make them accessibleâ€”people are really searching for recipes and products they can use to create meal experiences that look great and wonâ€™t break the bank. I can help with that.â€ť