Any Food Network Fan will know chef Amanda Freitag as a judge or competitor on a variety of shows on the channel. In this second part of our interview, Freitag talks about her new show Chef Swap at the Beach which airs on The Cooking Channel on Oct. 1 as well as filming American Diner Revival with Ty Pennington on The Food Network.
She also spoke candidly about her own Easy AF series and the importance of basic cooking skills. Freitag also chatted about a special place in California that is near and dear to her and destinations she has yet to visit.
You traveled across the country on American Diner Revival. Did you find any hidden gems along the way?
Yes, absolutely. We got to meet so many incredible people filming the show and meet so many family businesses. I’m such a diner girl. There was this place in Miami, El Mago de las Fritas. They make these burgers that have these crispy onions on top of them. Oh, my God, those were delicious. The patty has some chorizo in it. I’ve never had anything like it before so it was very surprising. I’m a burger girl, so I’ll try any burger anytime, anywhere.
Of course, when we went to the Midwest, we were having things like Juicy Lucy’s and boiled peanuts in Virginia. I loved that show because not only did we meet the most incredible people, but we also would have something very specific to every region of the country that we went to.
What’s up next for you?
I have this new show coming out on the cooking channel called Chef Swap at the Beach, and it starts October 1st. We’ve done six episodes, and the cool part about that too is we have found these great restaurant owners, mostly like mom and pop type restaurants, but some other high-end places as well.
We take both chefs and we swap them to work in each other’s kitchens. In one episode we take Jess Sagun from Winna’s Kitchen and Chef Jamie Daskalis from Johnny D’s Waffles & Bakery. We swap them into each other’s restaurants and they had to make a dish and eat in the other person’s kitchen. They both have breakfast and lunch restaurants in Myrtle Beach. They are like fish out of water and don’t know where anything is. It was really fun and cool to see two different chefs step into each other’s world.
So hopefully I’ll get back on the road with this show and keep discovering small restaurants with small business owners to support them through a fun competition. Myrtle Beach has thousands of restaurants, but a lot of them are big chains. To find the smaller ones was actually kind of difficult but fun. We found the smaller restaurants and the people who were competing with the big restaurants. I think that’s just a microcosm of what’s happening in our industry anyway. It was really cool to highlight these people.
*Chef Swap at the Beach premieres October 1st at 7:00 pm est on The Cooking Channel.
You dedicate a lot of your own website to teaching and instruction for individuals at home with your Easy AF series. Why is it important for you to teach others about cooking?
I think for me, for a long time coming up in the industry, so many people were intimidated by food. Sometimes people think here’s a Top Chef and you can never do what they do. Of course, we want to always keep some magic secret, but I feel like it’s empowering to get people in the kitchen and I want to show them that it’s not as hard as you think.
If you just jump in without fear, you get to play. I learn by trial and error and happen to have a natural skill and passion for it. Not everybody does, but I do think it’s good to take away some of the mystery and really try and invite people into an approachable space so they can learn.
Over the last two and a half years, people have been cooking so much more and I think it’s a really good skill to have. Even if you don’t become a restaurant chef, it’s just something you should be able to do, at least fry an egg.
In the past, you’ve talked about your love of one of my favorite cities in the world, which is Healdsburg, California (near Santa Rosa).
I love it there. I was just there filming Guy’s Grocery Games and I spent some time with chef Crista Luedtke, who has a hotel in Guerneville, [and restaurant] Boon Eat + Drink which is right next door.
I also saw my friend Dusty Estes, who does a lot of relief effort work [called Farm to Pantry]. It’s just kind of magical in that area of the country. It’s a small community, which is really nice. All the chefs in the community really work together, come together, bond together, especially over the relief efforts for the fires that destroyed part of the region, but also just even with helping each other out.
What’s your dream vacation destination?
I’m a beach girl, so it would probably be somewhere like Tahiti or the Fiji Islands. I’ve also never been to Australia and one of my dearest friends lives there, so I need to get to the other side of the world.