Amanda Freitag, The Harrison Restaurant, Tribeca, Manhattan, Chef, Chef Q&A, Chef Q and A, Chef Q & A, Recommendations, Insider Recommendations, New American, Cuisine, Jimmy Bradley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Vong, Diane Forley, Verbena, Arpege, Paris, Tom Valenti, Cesca, Gusto, West Village, Bobby Flay, Iron Chef, Chopped, Judge, The Next Iron Chef


Q & A 2011


Q. Tell us why you decided to leave The Harrison and what you are doing now.

A. It was time to go, to move on to do other things. I’ve just finished filming two seasons of  “Chopped” and I’m working on a show called “Unique Eats” for the Cooking Channel. I’m a chef / contributor, kind of a talking head. The producer goes around the country, highlights restaurants that we feel have unique eats and we just talk about them – and I get to eat the food.


Q. Are you enjoying working in television?

A. I am! I didn’t think I would, and I like it more than I thought. It totally reminds me of the kitchen, because it’s a team. You all work together and at one point you are really ON, which reminds me of dinner service, and then you wrap and you’re just kind of like ‘OK, let’s do it again.’ I’ve been working in kitchens for a very long time, so it’s kind of fun to do something related to my field that’s not in the kitchen.

Q. Do you miss being in the kitchen or is it nice to take that break?

A. You know, this is the first time in almost 20 years that I haven’t been in a kitchen, so it’s been an interesting transition. I’ve been cooking a lot at home, which is also a huge challenge. I don’t mind the prep as much as having to do the dishes. I need a head dishwasher! But it’s been a great learning experience for me and whenever I hear people say ‘I love cooking at home!’ I think, really?

Q. That’s kind of interesting for home cooks to understand.  What are you learning about home cooking?

A. I’m learning about cooking for one, since I live alone, and that’s really interesting because I can’t do it! I end up making more food than I need to make. But it’s good, because I always have leftovers!

Q. What’s the hardest part for you?

A. Cooking in a small space, cooking on not-such-great equipment. My oven doesn’t work that well. And when I’m sautéing in my pan, I like to get it super hot, and there are plenty of times when the smoke alarms go off and I have to take it down, take the battery out, until I’m done cooking and then put it back up. So it’s those weird little challenges that you don’t think about when you’re cooking in the restaurant.

Q. Now that you are doing home cooking, what would be some tips that you could pass along to home cooks?

A. Well, number one, take your smoke alarm off first! So many home cooks always ask me ‘how did you get the sear on that fish or how did you get that chicken so brown?’ It’s just that you have to get the pan smoking hot before you put something in it and honestly, I think it’s very difficult to do that at home or you feel like you are about to wreck the kitchen or create this big fire. But it’s important to get that heat going.

In the restaurant, we get our pans smoking, we’re cooking fast, our ovens are on 500 degrees. It’s a whole different vibe.

I recommend being a little bit fearless as a home cook. What’s the worst thing that can happen... that you are going to have to clean it up at the end!

Q. Other than TV, what are some of the other things that you are currently doing?

A. I’m looking to build my own business. So, I’m kind of working on concepts and I’ve been traveling around the country to kind of see what other chefs outside of New York are doing. I was just recently in Boston and Miami.

I’m also working with MS Active Wellness. I worked with a nutritionist to create webisodes that have recipes that are easy to make and quick and delicious for people with MS.

It’s really great for me, because it’s been a huge learning experience. As a chef, you are always going out for the extreme stuff. But now having had the experience of cooking at home, I enjoy talking to people and teaching them about cooking at home, more so for wellness and nutrition. People with MS may have some obstacles, but they still want to cook and are still interested in the food world. So, we put together some really great recipes and videos for the site.



Q. Do you have anything in your arsenal that is such an essential gadget or tool that you can’t live without?

A. The Microplane zester. It’s my most used tool. I know it’s a chef’s favorite tool, but I use it all the time. It’s on my knife magnet, and it gets used almost every day.

The OXO Citrus Juicer. It’s double sided, one for grapefruit, one for lemon/lime. It fits inside this little cup with a spout on one end to pour it out and a screen to cover it.

You just cut your lemon in half, you juice, it falls into the cup, a screen catches the seeds and then you just pour the juice into whatever you need. For some reason, this gadget is just amazing to me because I don’t have to get out my little strainer. I don’t have to put it over some cup that isn’t the right size. It takes two seconds and the seeds are gone.

[See details.]

Q. Do you use cookbooks?

A. I use cookbooks for inspiration. When I worked at Verbena, I looked at Alice Waters’ cookbooks and when I was at Gusto, I would look at Marcella Hazan’s books all the time to look at the regions, and what food meant.

[See details.]

Q. What pastas do you love to use? When it’s not made fresh. Is there a pasta company doing a great job?

A. Latini Pasta [imported by Gustiamo] - chef Sarah Jenkins, who I used to work with at Il Buco as her sous chef, taught me so much about pasta. She only used Latini at the time. It’s cut through brass dies and this makes a HUGE difference as to how the pasta tastes and with the sauce, and what happens in the pan when you put it together with the sauces. Once you have that, it’s going to be hard to go to your old standbys, because that is really unique, really beautiful pasta.

Setaro almost makes a really good product.

[See details.]

Q. How about ingredients?

A. I’m just an olive oil fiend. As far as olive oils go, I shop at Fairway a lot, and they have a really good line of olive oils. In a restaurant, I use Iliada Kalamata Olive Oil. I really like it because it’s very all purpose. If I am using a finishing oil, I seek out something higher-end. But I use so much olive oil, that I use Iliada for kind of everything.

[See details.]


Q. Last time we interviewed you, you recommended a few places in New York, any new places you’ve been to lately?

A. Yes, Dirt Candy - I love the intimacy of the place, it’s a tiny little place. Amanda Cohen is the chef and what she is doing with vegetables is pretty amazing. It’s very fine tuned, very detailed, it’s very specific. If the dish is cauliflower, you are tasting cauliflower, it’s all about the cauliflower, but it’s this beautiful composed dish.

Trestle on Tenth - I love the vibe there. Delicious for dinner and brunch. It’s kind of neighborhoody with a great vibe. I love their menu selection and they always have great service. It was kind of cool, because I was sitting by the window that looked out over the backyard and I saw one of the chefs putting a ham in a smoker and I thought, man I want to come back to dinner and have that.

In Boston, Neptune Oyster - a fantastic seafood house.

Bistro du Midi is a great place. They do this chicken for two that is outrageous. They do it in the wood oven and they put lemon ricotta between the skin and the flesh, and it turns out to be this unbelievably delicious chicken. It’s crazy good.

Also in Boston, Toro - great tapas, great vibe, very surprising neighborhood. I had everything from crispy sweetbreads with citrus and watermelon radishes to tripe and lamb stew with blood sausage to pan con tomate. It was ALL tasty. So if anyone is up in Boston, I highly recommend it.

In LA, Gjelina - they have great food and it’s exactly how I want to be cooking. Exactly how I think people want to be eating. It’s urban and it’s rustic. It’s just my kind of place.

[See details.]


Q. What wines / digestifs / aperitifs do you love to keep in your refrigerator?

A. Actually my boyfriend is always joking with me, because he’s like ‘you don’t really drink, but all you have in your refrigerator is booze.’ I have a collection of really weird booze in my refrigerator. I have a rum from the Bahamas, a smoked chipotle tequila, and random liquors. But I brought back Maurin Quina from Italy. It’s a digestive and it is worth a try if you haven't had it.

[See details.]

Q. Where do you go out for drinks?

A. The Summit Bar on the Lower East Side. They are making some really good drinks. They are really artisanal with their ice cubes, and their alcohols and their juice and everything is really fresh. It’s a little out of the way nook that I would have never found on my travels, if I hadn’t been invited for a friend’s birthday party.

[See details.]


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Details of Amanda Freitag’s recommendations on where to eat in Manhattan and Brooklyn.


- Sautéed Foie Gras with Pear Chutney

- Beet Salad with Crushed Pistachios and Robiolina




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