Amanda Freitag Bio

Get to know Chopped judge Amanda Freitag.

Amanda Freitag is the chef and owner of Empire Diner in Chelsea, where she serves a menu of her signature dishes along with classic American selections inspired by staples from diners around the country. With frequent appearances on Food Network, she is also one of New York City's most-beloved chefs.

Growing up in New Jersey, Freitag's passion for food was fostered by everyone from her grandparents to her high-school home economics teacher. They encouraged her to pursue a cooking career and to enroll at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. After graduation from culinary school, Freitag's first position in a New York City kitchen was as rotisseur and garde manger at Vong under the guidance of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was there that she was introduced to marrying French techniques with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavors.

In 1994, Freitag began working with Chef Diane Forley at Verbena, where she rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine. Forley taught Freitag the importance of using local, organic ingredients and introduced her to the Union Square Greenmarket. During her time at Verbena, Freitag realized how much she had to learn yet about the culinary world, and in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore the bountiful markets and progressive restaurant scene.

While in Paris, she spent two weeks working under Chef Alain Passard at his venerable L'Arpege restaurant. While her time there was short, the lessons she learned were life-changing. At L'Arpege, Passard insisted on the freshest ingredients and, therefore, there was nothing left in the walk-in refrigerators at the end of service besides butter. This eye-opening experience helped Freitag to further develop her deep appreciation of superlative ingredients and the flavors of the Mediterranean region.

Upon returning to New York, Freitag worked at some of the city’s most-popular restaurants, including 'Cesca, which earned two stars from The New York Times while she cooked alongside Tom Valenti as his chef de cuisine. Following 'Cesca, Freitag accepted the position of executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where her food was met with critical acclaim.

In January 2008, Freitag took over as the executive chef at The Harrison in Tribeca. Over the three years that she helmed the kitchen, The Harrison received numerous accolades from local and national media, including a two-star review from The New York Times. Frequently on Food Network, Freitag has battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, is a recurring judge on Chopped and, in 2009 and again in 2012, competed for the title of Next Iron Chef. She can also be found contributing to Unique Eats on Cooking Channel.

When she is not in the kitchen, Freitag enjoys traveling the world and collecting restaurant menus to add to her ever-growing collection.