Cedar Rapids man to appear on online show

Home cooking key ingredient in new web series hosted by Anthony Anderson

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CEDAR RAPIDS — It was a busy week for Craig Hazelbaker.

On Wednesday, his girlfriend of 15 years moved into his house. On Saturday, the couple completed the kitchen remodel that was first sketched on a cocktail napkin a year ago.

“We finished at 10:30 a.m.,” Hazelbaker said.

Thirty minutes later, a film crew arrived.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of preparation, all revolving around Hazelbaker’s pan-seared scallops with garlic shrimp over linguine with brandied cream sauce.

Hazelbaker, who took first place in the Edgewood Road Hy-Vee Seafood Recipe Contest with the dish in May, was recreating it for a new online cooking show: “Anthony Eats America.”

The web series, which is hosted by “Law & Order” star Anthony Anderson, is a celebration of home cooks.

“Our goal is to find the best home cooks throughout the country,” said Michael Callahan, Jr., executive producer of Slow Show Productions. “We bring Anthony into their kitchens and they cook a meal together.”

Anderson, who has served as a judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and competed on “Chopped,” said he hopes the show inspires other to take to the kitchen.

“We want to show that cooking is fun; anyone can do it,” said Anderson, who started cooking at age 11.

The crew’s arrival Saturday in Cedar Rapids fell in the middle of a week-long shooting schedule that began in California with stops at kitchens in Chicago, Texas, New York City and New Jersey. Anderson said the recipes he’s sampled are as varied as the places he’s visited.

“You never know what you’re going to get, no matter where you are,” Anderson said.

In Chicago, he dined on New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. In Austin, it was bleu cheese bacon chive potato salad.

“I didn’t know what to think when I was told we’d be making scallops in Iowa,” Anderson told Hazelbaker during the taping.

“You didn’t know we have scallops in the Cedar River?” Hazelbaker joked in response.

It was Hazelbaker’s win at Hy-Vee that put him on Callahan’s radar. Because he know filming was set for early June, a time when he had enough happening already, Hazelbaker said he wasn’t sure how serious he’d respond to an inquiry — if it happened.

“I thought ‘I don’t have time for this,’ and I wound up talking to Michael for 45 minutes,” Hazelbaker said.

Hazelbaker’s reluctance echoes his response to the Hy-Vee competition. Initially interested, he put off submitting a recipe. It took the prodding of his girlfriend, Diane Kuiper, and an e-mail from Hy-Vee’s executive chef, Luke Peters, to encourage Hazelbaker to enter a recipe on the last day of the contest.

However, there’s no hesitation as Hazelbaker talks about what cooking means to him.

“I want people to know that just because they’re a home cook, whether they’re cooking for four people, three people, two people or one, they can do it well,” he said. “If you love yourself enough to eat and keep yourself alive, you might as well enjoy it.”

“Anthony Eats America” will premiere on AOL in early July.

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