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 has emerged as one of New York City’s most celebrated chefs.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., 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 Jean-Georges’ 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 green market 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 late 2007, Amanda was looking for an opportunity to show her versatility as a chef. Jimmy Bradley’s search for a new chef at The Harrison and Amanda’s desire to try something new could not have been better timed, and the two chefs’ shared passion for bold, straightforward cooking made this a natural fit. Since Amanda’s arrival, The Harrison has 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, competed on season two of The Next Iron Chef, has a recurring role as a judge on Chopped and frequently appears on Unique Eats on Cooking Channel. On The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, she survived seven weeks of challenges and showdowns to become the runner-up of the season.