Growing up in New Jersey, Amanda Freitag’s passion for food was fostered by everyone from her grandparents to her high school home economics teacher. Today Amanda Freitag has emerged as one of New York City’s most celebrated chefs. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, Amanda’s first position in a New York City kitchen was as rotissier and garde manger at Vong in 1993, under the guidance of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was there that she became proficient in French techniques, while being introduced to numerous southeast Asian ingredients and flavors and how the two concepts could blend seamlessly in his dishes.
In 1994, Amanda started working with her mentor and friend Diane Forley at Verbena, where she rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Diane taught Amanda the importance of using local, organic ingredients and introduced her to the greenmarket in Union Square. It was while she was at Verbena that Amanda realized how much she had yet to learn about the culinary world, and so in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore markets and restaurants.
While in Paris, she spent two weeks working in the kitchen of the venerable Arpege restaurant under chef Alain Passard. While her time there was short, the lessons she learned were life changing. Working in a restaurant where nothing was left overnight in the walk-in except for butter was an eye-opening experience, and further developed her love of fresh ingredients and the flavors of the Mediterranean region.
Amanda came back to New York where she 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. Most recently, Amanda was the executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where she received both critical and popular acclaim.
In January 2008, Amanda took over as the executive chef at The Harrison in Tribeca. Over the three years that she was the chef, The Harrison received numerous accolades from local and national media, including a two-star review from The New York Times, as well as features in Time Out New York, New York Magazine and Forbes Life. Amanda has battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America and has a recurring role as a judge on the Food Network series, Chopped. In the Fall of 2009 she graced the Food Network stage again and competed for the title of America’s Next Iron Chef. Currently you can also find her as a contributing chef on Unique Eats, a weekly program on The Cooking Channel and co-host of Food Network’s American Diner Revival.
Now after almost 20 years of being a groundbreaking, highly acclaimed female Chef in New York City, Amanda achieved her lifelong dream, opening Empire Diner in New York City. In Fall 2015, she released her first cookbook, The Chef Next Door: A Pro Chef’s Recipes for Fun, Fearless Home Cooking.