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, NY. After graduation from culinary school, Freitag’s first position in a New York City kitchen was as rotissier and garde manger at Vong under the guidance of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was there that she was introduced to marrying French technique 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 yet to learn about the culinary world, and in 1999 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore the bountiful markets and progressive restaurant scenes.