Chef Amanda Freitag has been part of New York City's culinary fabric since 1993, working in kitchens with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Tom Colicchio, among others. Since 2007 she has been running the show at The Harrison, which received a two-star review from the New York Times under her leadership. This year, Freitag has become a familiar face to viewers across America as both a competitor and a judge on two Food Network shows. Given her busy schedule, we're thrilled that Chef Freitag was able to answer a few questions for Serious Eats.
Name: Amanda Freitag
Occupation: Executive Chef, The Harrison
When did you know you wanted to be a chef? I knew in high school after a tour of the Culinary Institute of America. I thought "Wow, I can do this for a living, count me in!"
How do you think your cooking style has changed over the course of your career? I think my style is a unique mix of all the chefs that have influenced me, all the places that I have traveled; it is all about personal experiences.
You recently competed in the Next Iron Chef. What was that experience like for you? Did you take anything away from it that you didn't expect? I loved competing on the Next Iron Chef; it taught me so much about myself. I like to think I rose to the challenge and walked away proud of myself and my cooking.
You are also a judge on Chopped. Did your experience competing change your perspective as a judge at all? I have always had the utmost respect for the chefs that compete on Chopped—20 or 30 minutes is very little time to represent yourself as a chef.
What are some of your culinary traditions for the holidays? Anything in particular you like to eat/cook? Usually there is a lot of cookie baking going on at my family's house. I really love to cook pasta on Christmas, and one of my favorite things to indulge in is The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. It doesn't happen every year, but when it does, it is so special.
Any childhood holiday foods you remember fondly, but don't really eat anymore? Pancakes. I love them, but I never eat them anymore. Weird, huh? I just realized that!
If you could put together a three-course meal with dishes from three different New York restaurants, what would you include? Tuna Tartare at The Waverly Inn, followed by any pasta dish at Al di La and finishing with a cookie from Levain Bakery.
Best late-night eats, both out and at home? I am still a Blue Ribbon girl, either the one in Manhattan or Brooklyn, where I live. I usually get the Greek salad, fries and squid. At home it is chips and hummus all the way, I love to "crunch."
What is in your fridge that you'd be embarrassed to tell us about? Leftover Thai food from a delivery on my night off.
Everyone has a go-to person they call for restaurant/bar recommendations. Who's yours? I wish I had that person, can you tell me yours, because I am usually it for everyone I know. [You can call on Serious Eaters anytime!]
So what are your recommendations? If you are taking a friend out around town, go with what you know and love—don't experiment with your guest.