Amanda Freitag is an award winning chef, TV personality and cookbook author, and she is the co-star of Food Network’s hit series, Chopped and Chopped Junior. A James Beard Award winner for Television Studio Program (2014), Amanda has appeared on a number of Food Network and Cooking Channel series. She has battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, competed for the title of America’s Next Iron Chef, co-hosted American Diner Revival alongside Ty Pennington, and contributed to Cooking Channel’s Unique Eats.
Growing up in New Jersey, Amanda’s passion for food was fostered by everyone from her grandparents to her high school home economics teacher, who encouraged her to pursue a cooking career and enroll in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After graduating from the CIA, Amanda secured a position as a rotissier and garde manger at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s highly acclaimed Manhattan restaurant, Vong. It was at Vong that she was introduced to the happy marriage of pairing French techniques with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavors.
In 1994, Amanda began working with chef Diane Forley at New York’s Verbena Restaurant and Courtyard Garden, where she rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Forley taught Amanda the importance of using local, organic ingredients and introduced her to the Union Square Greenmarket. During her time at Verbena, Amanda realized how much she had yet to learn about the culinary world, and in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore the bountiful markets and progressive restaurant scenes in those countries.
While in Paris, she spent two weeks working under renowned chef Alain Passard at his venerable Arpege restaurant. While her time there was short, the lessons she learned were life changing and she fell in love with the flavors of the Mediterranean region . At Arpege, because Passard insisted on the freshest ingredients, leaving nothing in the walk-in refrigerators at the end of service besides butter, this deepened Amanda’s appreciation for using only superlative ingredients for the best possible result on the plate.
Upon returning to New York, Amanda worked at some of the city’s most popular restaurants including Cesca, where she cooked alongside Tom Valenti as his chef de cuisine and earned two stars from The New York Times. Following Cesca, Amanda accepted the position of executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where her food was met with widespread critical acclaim. In January 2008, Amanda took over as the executive chef at The Harrison in TriBeCa. Over the three years that she helmed the kitchen, The Harrison received numerous accolades from local and national media, including a two-star review from The New York Times. From January 2014 to July 2015, Amanda helped reopen New York’s iconic Empire Diner as the restaurant’s Executive Chef where she lent her contemporary approach to American comfort food.
Her first cookbook, a love letter to the home cook, The Chef Next Door: A Pro Chefs Recipes for Fun, Fearless Home Cooking, was released in September 2015. When she is not in the kitchen, Amanda enjoys traveling the world and collecting restaurant menus to add to her ever-growing collection.