Sunny Anderson

Photo: John Lee

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I'm a bit of a sponge—I soak up what's around me. And after living in three countries and 13 states, boy, have I been around. My dad was in the army, so we were pretty mobile when I was growing up, and I moved a lot when I was a DJ in my 20s. Every place I've been has given me ideas to bring back to my kitchen. (Okay, ideas and sometimes meat—I smuggled mortadella in my suitcase after a trip to Milan. But let's keep that between us.)

While stationed in Bad Kreuznach, Germany (oh, the bratwurst I've had!), we visited Austria, Switzerland, and Denmark—but often we didn't even have to leave the base to taste something new. Stationed alongside us were Vietnamese families, Korean families, and German families, and my mom—who can talk to anybody—made sure to get all their best recipes. She had no problem going up to a stranger at a potluck and asking, "How do you make this?" It made her cooking even better than it already was, and taught me that opening yourself to life's possibilities is a delicious way to live.

That's still my philosophy. When I visited a Cuban restaurant in France a few years ago, I spotted a quirky dish I've been making ever since: pork kebabs seasoned with curry and lime. (Indian spices with Latin technique...what a mash-up!) I've also spent time in the South, including Texas, where the Mexican food is hard to top—which is how I came to blend Southern and Tex-Mex cooking in my fried green tomatillos recipe. And now that I've settled (I hope!) in Brooklyn, I live in a community full of cuisines from every continent. I fell hard for a Vietnamese restaurant here that serves amazing gingery beef lettuce wraps, which I've simplified at home by using Chinese hoisin sauce.

I'm not saying you have to travel the world to be a good cook. My point is that keeping your eyes open to inspiration broadens your taste horizons. I take all experiences with me everywhere—and I find myself adding more all the time.

Next: Try a few of Sunny's favorite recipes