Hometown Hopeful Competes for Next Iron Chef Title
From Friar Tuck to Food Network, Amanda Freitag takes on popular cooking competition.
- December 27, 2012
Chef Amanda Freitag has always been a proud Jersey girl, having grown up in Cedar Grove before moving to New York to become a Food Network television star.
Freitag moved to Essex Countywith her parents when she was in second grade and later graduated from what was then known as Cedar Grove Memorial High School.
She moved out when she started at the Culinary Institute of America but always comes back home for the holidays.
Freitag got her culinary start right in her hometown and worked as a busgirl and a banquet waitress at the Friar Tuck Inn, now The Grove catering hall, which was located on Pompton Avenue.
“I fell in love with the restaurant industry and I was interested in the kitchen and how it all worked,” said Freitag. “My home economics teacher was the one who told me about the Culinary Institute of America, which I knew nothing about.”
“The idea that I could do that for a living blew me away,” she said.
Freitag is now a regular star on the Food Network, a judge on the popular show “Chopped” and has competed in Iron Chef America, The Next Iron Chef and most recently, The Next Iron Chef Redemption.
Freitag faced off against nine other contestants in elimination cooking rounds with specific themes.
The bottom two chefs from each round had 30 minutes to create four dishes with one secret ingredient to "wow" the judges or face elimination.
“It's incredibly stressful, it's the most pressure I’ve been under,” she said. “The very first show we had to cook on the beach and create our own fire. They put more than our culinary skills to the test.”
In one of the final challenges, each judge picked their own ingredients for their last supper.
“I made a chicken dish that I was really proud of because I think one of the hardest things to do is to cook simply and it blew the judges away” said Freitag. “I felt very proud of that because it was exactly how I normally cook, it was my style of food. I didn't have to go totally outside of my own style and I was able to showcase myself.”
Second place finish
Although the judges were blown away by the last meal, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli ultimately emerged as the victor and was named the Next Iron Chef.
Freitag feels she did in fact redeem herself for making it to the final round, two rounds further than she got in 2009.
“I didn't win the golden ticket, but I had an amazing experience,” she said. “Ten of us started out on the same journey and nine of us were disappointed, only one person can win.”
Freitag does not expect to enter any future competitions but will rather focus on her role as a judge on Chopped. However, she does hope to compete again on Chopped All-Stars.
“I think that's such a rush and the viewers and former contestants love to see the judges step into their shoes,” she said. “I surprise myself. That kind of pressure makes me do things I wouldn't have ever thought of and it becomes this beautiful dish or a crazy flavor you never thought would come together.”
“I'm motivated to learn and try new things,” she added. “I think that if you stop learning or stop trying or challenging yourself, you're sort of done and you might as well retire.”
Catch Chef Amanda Freitag on Chopped Tuesdays at 10 p.m.