You’ve seen them judge the competition, battle for the title of All-Stars champion and compete in a friendly game with colleagues on After Hours, but there’s a lot you don’t know about the judges of Chopped. Here’s your chance to get to know the nine people behind the Chopping Block.
Amanda Freitag is a regular judge on Chopped. She recently competed in The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, coming in second place. Amanda has been cooking professionally for more than 20 years and has worked under a long list of chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Passard, Diane Forley and Tom Valenti, to name a few, and it is with great excitement that Amanda is now working toward opening a restaurant of her own. But there are a few things you might not know about Amanda — for example, she loves comfort foods like burgers and pasta but hates certain foods that other chefs would consider favorite delicacies, like sea urchin and monkfish liver. Find out more about Amanda in her Q&A below.
What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
Amanda Freitag: I would have to say sea urchin. Unlike many other chefs, I am not a fan. I am not skilled at cleaning it or cooking it.
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
AF: I tried monkfish liver terrine once and I think it is one of the only things I would never, ever eat again!
What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who? Details, please.
AF: I will never forget my first meal at the original Bouley in New York City. Chef David Bouley was pioneering Tribeca at the time. It started at the entrance, walking in and opening the huge wooden door and taking in the beautiful perfume of fresh apples that were in the foyer. Every detail of the meal was nuanced and the food was surprising and delicious. The service was impeccable; it made me fall in love with the restaurant world even deeper.
What’s your guilty pleasure food?
AF: I would have to say burgers. When I get that craving for a juicy, meaty hamburger, there is nothing else that can satisfy me.
Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?
AF: I would say paella, especially at Tertulia. I just wouldn’t and couldn’t ever make it as well at home as they do.
What kitchen tool can’t you live without?
AF: I have become addicted to my Vitamix blender. I use it for so many things: smoothies, soups, sauces, pestos, flavored oils and cocktails.… I just love it!
If you weren’t in food, what career would you like to have tried?
AF: I would have been some sort of an artist/performer. I love the instant gratification of making people happy with my work.
What’s your favorite “food city” to visit?
AF: Ooh, that’s a tough one … It’s a big world with lots of yummy food and I wouldn’t want anyone to be angry with me. In the U.S. it’s a tie between San Francisco and Portland (Oregon).
What’s your favorite late-night snack?
AF: For sweet it’s chocolate chip cookies and milk. Salty is tortilla chips and guacamole.
What’s one must-have at your last supper?
AF: Pasta! Fresh, of course, preferably Scott Conant’s spaghetti with tomato and basil.
Who’s your favorite person to cook with?
AF: I would have to say my nieces, Lizzie and Megan. They are 11 and 14 and they are fascinated by how much I love food, and what a good time I have cooking it and what a fun mess I can make.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup or mustard? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate (of course)
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burger or hot dog? Burger
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Soda or water? Water
Sprinkles or jimmies? Sprinkles