Full serving of AMG tastes ML good…

Foodies familiar with the TV show The Main wouldn’t recognize the Food Network star behind the wheel of a 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG one recent morning in Lower Lonsdale, a historic waterfront neighbourhood in the City of North Vancouver, B.C.

Likewise, enthusiasts of the German automaker might not immediately make out the uber-ML version of Mercedes’ sport luxury SUV.

In the case of Anthony Sedlak, the 26-year-old has lost some 50 pounds since wrapping season four of his popular Food Network show, and these days, instead of sweating it out in a kitchen for hours on end, he’s sweating it out pedalling some 300 kilometres on Metro Vancouver roadways a week on his road bike.

As to the menacing SUV he’s stirring things up with this sunny November morning, it has also had a complete makeover, starting up front with a new hood design and power domes in stark contrast to the high-gloss chrome front end, and ending with darkened tail lamps that complete the subtle yet effective exterior redesign of the 2011 model.

In the world of automotive production, such updates and improvements are part of the territory, with refreshed and clean sheet designs business as usual from model year to model year.

For chefs, particularly those with ambitions to be among the best, remaking one’s appearance is often a losing cause, with weight gain, sore feet and a lack of energy an acknowledged part of that recipe for success.

“The reality is that one day I woke up at 22 and really didn’t like myself very much,” Sedlak says with a confidence and ease equal to the way he’s reining in the powerful Mercedes along the Upper Levels Highway. “I went through sort of a quarter-life crisis when I decided to lose some weight, and I ended up ditching some 50 pounds.

“I’m so blessed to not be that person any more.”

Who Anthony Sedlak is today is a man in his mid-20s who relishes the fact he hasn’t worked for “The Man” for the past seven years; who has written a best-selling book entitled The Main Recipes; and who gets to do the one thing he loves more than anything.

“Out of all the things I’m doing right now, the most enjoyable is teaching people how to cook,” he says as we spirit by the Capilano Road off-ramp, the exit to Sedlak’s childhood neighbourhood and Grouse Mountain Resort, the place where as a 13-year old he started his climb up the culinary ladder. By high school he was the Chef de Partie of the mountain’s flagship dining room, The Observatory, and a few short years later won the Food Network’s Superstar Chef Challenge. “I just love interacting with people.”

In addition to hosting cooking classes throughout Metro Vancouver, Sedlak fills his days operating a catering company with childhood friend Bryan Kelly, serving as a spokesperson for Stonyfield organic yogurt, and hosting the National Chili Cook-off.

“Sponsored by Zantac,” he adds with a showman’s pitch, his quick wit never far from the surface.

Nor was his delight and gushing admiration for the ML63.

“This truck is incredible! I haven’t driven anything remotely like this.”

Then: “What a racy machine. Man!”

With a zero to 100 km/h time of five seconds, a seamless seven-speed shifttronic gearbox with paddle shifters, permanent all-wheel drive, high-performance brakes and an AMG sport-tuned suspension, “Man!” pretty much says it all when describing the new ML63.

Under that sculpted hood purrs the International Engine of the Year for best performance engine over 4.0-litres (yes, there is such a thing), and as Sedlak — who since the age of 16 has ridden little but sport bikes — discovered, AMG might very well stand for some German wording, but “All Mighty God,” again, pretty much sums it up.

But for all this sport performance, the ML63 is, as Sedlak noted, a truck, or at least an SUV, and offers off-road capability similar to its highway performance in calibre and scope.

The interior cabin is luxurious but understated, with high-quality materials used throughout, and in this particular ML63’s case, the optional nappa leather-trimmed dashboard really completed the package.

Sedlak has made a name for himself in the celebrity chef world (he hates that term, incidentally) by promoting what he calls “real deal food. Simple fare.”

First, he keeps things simple, from the fresh, ideally locally sourced ingredients to the techniques required of the recipe.

“And second is that cooking is not as complicated as people make it out to be.”

So, what would be the AMG equivalent in cooking?

It was the only time during our drive that the quick-witted Sedlak hesitated, then, “Molecular gastronomy is the AMG of the cooking world,” he pronounced, thought you could tell he wasn’t entirely happy with it.

A few more kilometres, and out of nowhere, he said, “I’ve got it!

“Smoked paprika is the AMG of the cooking world. It’s a badass Spanish spice.”

After spending some time in the new ML63 AMG, that smells about right.

First vehicles: “I grew up riding motorcycles, and believe it or not just got my car driver’s licence last year. When I was 16 I got a Ninja 500; I loved the speed and the whole motorcycle image thing.

“After the Ninja I had a 600 Yamaha — this was before the R6s — then an ’04 R6, and my last bike, which I just sold last summer, was a 2010 R6, jet black with gold rims. If Batman rode a bike, that’s what he’d ride.”

Current car: 1994 VW Golf

Next car: “I’m pretty much really into Audis’ look right now; they’re so clean. I think that S5 is a very sweet car.”

Dream car: “Probably the Audi R8. Not the convertible, but the coupe. And maybe a Ducati 900, too.”

Dream bicycle: Sedlak grew up on Vancouver’s North Shore riding mountain bikes, but switched to road racing a few years ago, and today rides 100 km loops in and around Metro Vancouver a couple of times a week.

“A Canyon. They’re hand-built in Germany, and they weigh, with all the components, about 14 pounds. I don’t think there is one in Vancouver right now. They go for around $17,000-$20,000. Sick bike.”

The Specs

2011 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG

Style: Sport Luxury all-wheel drive SUV

Seats: Five

Engine: 6.3-litre V8 (510 hp)

Transmission: AMG 7-speed shifttronic

Fuel economy (L/100km): 20.4 city; 14.0 hwy.

Price (as tested): $105,000

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG