It was less than a year ago that we saw Tregaye Fraser standing in Food Star Kitchen, accepting the coveted title of the next Food Network Star. Now, she’s set to showcase her Star potential on Kitchen Sink, which kicks off its new season on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 11a|10c. Each week she’ll be joined by food-loving pals, including a few familiar faces from The Kitchen. You can count on over-the-top dishes that will turn your party menu into an unforgettable feast, plus no shortage of entertainment, as Tregaye told us when we caught up with her on set. Read on below to hear from Tregaye in an exclusive interview, and get her take on what she’s bringing to the party on Kitchen Sink.
What has the journey to this moment been like for you, from winning Food Network Star in August to finally hosting The Kitchen Sink?
Tregaye Fraser: I’m so happy to finally be here. I’m so happy to finally be doing the show. It’s been a great journey, doing my guest appearances and things like that, so the experience itself is amazing. … And so now it’s show time. The moment of truth, the moment I have been waiting for. And I plan on making sure we get season after season. We’re going to have a good time on this show.
How are you approaching Kitchen Sink? What can we expect?
TF: I’m approaching Kitchen Sink the way I approach everything else: food fusion with a twist. I basically take everyday foods and make them in an unconventional way. So everything we do on Kitchen Sink is my completely style of cooking. So this is perfect for me. It’s the perfect space because we do mash-ups. We take something that you know and change it into something you may not know.
When it comes to making a successful mash-up, are there rules in terms of fusing flavors?
TF: You know, I am a firm believer that there aren’t many rules in the kitchen. You pretty much do what you feel, and whatever tastes good to you, you do it, because that’s how you create. Now, I could sit here and say, “Stay in the flavor profile of what it is you know.” So if you’re making cheeseburger nachos, maybe use some kind of crispy bread and burger and lettuce and cheese. Or I could say, “Just do whatever the hell you want.” Take those nachos, put some shrimp on top, put some cheese on top and go for what you know. You really just want to stick with mild flavors and kind of graduate. I think you should gradually go into things. A lot of times when I am creating a mash-up, I’ll start off with the base of what I think, and then I might add a little something extra to it. And that may be amazing. And then I might add something else to it, and then that’s like, “OK, I just took it to another level.” So it’s really just experimenting and trial and error.
In working with an ensemble on Kitchen Sink, what do want your voice to bring to the party?
TF: I’m going to bring the fun. I’m definitely going to bring the swag. I’m definitely going to create some amazing dishes that are going to blow your mind. And I just want to keep it cute. I want to have fun, I want to have a good time, and I want people to be at home and [having] a good time. I want them to look at me and say, “Man, Tregaye has fun in the kitchen, and I want to do that. I don’t even want to go out to eat anymore because I want to sit in my kitchen and watch Tregaye and the crew on Kitchen Sink do their thing.” That’s what I want.
When you’re cooking, how do you approach a recipe?
TF: I actually — secretly — I don’t even really work off recipes. I hate even writing them. I really like to taste as I go. … Sometimes the most-beautiful thing is a mistake when you are cooking. That’s kind of how I go.
What do you consider to be your signature dish?
TF: I don’t like that question. That’s a crazy question. I don’t have a signature dish. I say this time and time again: Food is like your kids. You can’t pick a favorite. And I’m so finicky. One day I like Mediterranean, one day I love nachos. I’m going to love wings until the day I die. … I’m always in a mood for something different, and I go through these phases, so it depends on my mood.
Food hacks are so popular these days. Do you find yourself gravitating to one in particular?
TF: You can always go to the trusty beating the meat with the frying pan. … That’s my thing; that’s like my go-to right there. I do a lot of kitchen hacks. I think we do kitchen hacks as chefs and we don’t even realize we’re doing them. Especially when you misplace something — everything becomes a kitchen hack. You just wing it. Use a bowl to crush cereal. Whatever.
What store-bought item do you condone people use when it comes to taking shortcut in the kitchens?
TF: I love using frozen fruit for smoothies. That’s the best, even better than fresh fruit to me. Pizza doughs — I love that, because every kid loves pizza, and nobody wants to sit there and wait for the yeast to rise, and do this and do that. You can go right in the store and get a pizza dough. I think that’s number one, because you can mix and match and make calzones and pizza burgers and all kinds of things because you have that dough that’s already made in the store.
Is there one cooking myth or rule you think it’s time we disprove once and for all?
TF: That seafood and cheese do not go together. … That’s the great debate. Of course, there are a lot of seafood mac and cheeses and things like that out there, but really people are starting to get more comfortable with it. But for years people [would say], “Seafood and cheese, that doesn’t go.” I love it. I love it. Put cheese all on my fish.
What one food trend are you ready to say goodbye to?
TF: The chicken and waffle. I’m about over the chicken and waffle, honestly. … You can make waffles a thousand ways, and it’s cute, but I am so done with the chicken and waffle.
Tune in to Kitchen Sink on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 11a|10c.