Chef Amanda Freitag of Food Network's Chopped and Iron Chef America had a lot to say about pork during her cooking demonstration at the San Francisco Chipotle Cultivate Festival. Bacon lovers cheered as she drew a fat roll of pancetta out of the fridge. She made a pork chop topped with crispy pancetta, and along the way shared her best practices for buying, prepping, and cooking pancetta. Seasoned pancetta cooks and newbies alike should keep reading for some key pancetta-cooking tips.
For the past two and a half years, Nate Appleman has been Chipotle's culinary manager, working on recipe developing for the burrito chain and its new Asian eatery ShopHouse, sourcing ingredients, and streamlining kitchen and restaurant operations. After his chef demo at the San Francisco Chipotle Cultivate Food Festival we discussed his nontraditional workdays at Chipotle, the challenges of using fresh ingredients, and the importance of thinking beyond the food being served.
POPSUGAR: What does your typical day look like?
Nate Appleman: My day changes every day. I work a lot on developing ShopHouse and seeing it to market. I'm personally involved in hiring the crew, the managers, looking at the food cost numbers, and developing the menu. I spend a lot of time on that. But I spend a lot of time on Chipotle. It's constantly changing, because we use real ingredients, and real ingredients change. It's not like other restaurants or companies that have a formula. We don't cook by formula; we cook by ingredients. We're constantly evaluating tomatoes, seeing how they change, and if there is a problem, fixing it.
PS: What's your favorite aspect of your job?
NA: There is no monotony to it. I never know what the day will bring, because it changes all the time. I love that. In a restaurant, when you become a chef, you stand on the line and expedite tickets every single day. I don't like that and don't want to do that. I want something new, exciting, and fresh. I want to be cooking, creating, and doing. I get that opportunity.
PS: What unusual challenges have come up?
NA: The big challenge with Chipotle and ShopHouse is we're a big company. We have really strong beliefs about the ingredients that we're using and the accessibility and availability of those ingredients is hard. For a small, independent restaurant it's easy. You go to the farmers market, you pick up the food, and you're using great stuff. Well, we try to do that on a large scale. We have almost 1,500 restaurants.
"Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro knows a thing or two about great cheeses. In particular, the Food Network star, who's partnered with Cracker Barrel Cheese, has a soft spot for cheddar, specifically domestic varieties. "We're turning out great cheese and beating a lot of imported cheeses," he said. "Go America, right?"
Since we're always on the hunt for affordable cheese plate ideas, a punchy sandwich, or great pairing ideas, we asked Jeff to share his cheese expertise. Here are his thoughts on all things cheddar.
- Showcase cheddar on a cheese plate: "Use a good, affordable cheese as the bulk, then indulge in the more expensive imported cheeses," Jeff advises. Cracker Barrel's version is just under $4.
- Splurge on a domestic aged cheddar: Jeff loves old cheddars, which are strong and slightly crunchy from salt and aged enzymes. "I have gotten an 18-year-old cheddar [from an Amish village] that cost me $24 for a small block. It is so indulgent."
Chef Amanda Freitag may look and act tough as nails on Food Network's Chopped and Iron Chef America, but in person, she's all smiles and infectious giggles. Fun fact: she and POPSUGAR LIVE host Matthew Rodrigues worked together on the set of Iron Chef America, so right away, she was happy to chat with another member of the family. I caught up with her after her cooking demonstration at the San Francisco Chipotle Cultivate Festival, where we talked about her life as a judge, chef competitor, and most recently, restaurant owner.
POPSUGAR: You are so bubbly and warm, but your personality on Chopped is so different! How is that?
Amanda Freitag: It is. I get totally edited. I'm funny behind the scenes. I'm funny sometimes with the chefs. I think they capture those moments when I'm being stern. That's only one part of me. The other fun-loving, playful part is the other 80 percent. It's hard. I have to be a judge; I have to be intimidating and serious.
PS: What have been some of your favorite moments as a judge on Chopped?
AF: Oh my . . . how much time do we have? Wonderful moments like when the lunch ladies competed, which we now call them "school chefs." There was not a dry eye in the house. Sam Kass was our guest judge who works with Michelle Obama on the White House food movement. These women, what they're doing and how they make those kids feel normal and feed them, as a chef, it's something I hope I can do someday. It was so moving.
Aside from the moments when people burn themselves, cut themselves, fall down, put nothing on a plate, Madison Cowan was a memorable chef for me, because he came on Chopped and blew us away. He made the most incredible, delicate, elegant food with a humble background and story. We were all blown away. That doesn't happen often.
PS: More often than not, is it judging the least disastrous of the bunch?
AF: Not always disastrous. It's a tough environment. Everyone is a little flustered. I've competed in that kitchen a couple of times. I can say it's incredibly hard — harder than Iron Chef for me. Chopped is 30 minutes. There is very little equipment, very limited pantry.
Jeff Mauro, better known as the Sandwich King on Food Network, spent a little time away from his set (and his hectic schedule as spokesperson for Cracker Barrel Cheese) to talk to us about the meats and breads that are currently trending in the sandwich world (surprise: they're actually domestic!) and one classic American dish he's proud to have sandwich-ized.
POPSUGAR: What sandwich trends are you seeing this year?
Jeff Mauro: I am seeing a lot of bologna out there, a lot of grilled bologna. I did a grilled bologna burger last episode on the show that kind of prompted that. I did a really thick cut — I think a half-inch-thick cut — of grilled bologna. A lot of places in Chicago are doing grilled bologna with a fried egg and onions. I guess people want the nostalgia. That is where a lot of great trends come from, harking back to being a kid and eating grilled bologna. I am going to say that is going to explode even further.
PS: Pretzel buns are all the rage. We can't wait to make your homemade version this Summer. What's the ultimate way to fill 'em?
JM: I’ll tell you three things: a robust cheddar, pickled jalapeños, and ham. That’s all you need; it is the best of everything. It is like a ballpark in your mouth. You get the soft pretzel with the cheddar, so it’s almost like a nacho. It's unbelievable.
Keep reading to learn more, including Jeff's favorite sandwich creation from this year.
Sunny weather brought out plenty of refreshing sips and sweets among famous foodies this week. Chefs like Jamie Oliver and Giada DeLaurentiis shared pictures of their most recent dishes on Twitter and Instagram, and tasty-looking treats like macarons and berry tartlets had our mouths watering. If you missed out on these fun foodie snaps, take a look at the latest photos from celebrity chefs!
From Easter brunch to baseball season, there was no shortage of good food for our favorite celebrity chefs. This week cooks like Jamie Oliver and Chris Cosentino tweeted away with mouthwatering photos of what they were up to in the kitchen. Pizza and cupcakes were just a few of the snaps that made us hungry. In case you missed them, check out these foodie pics of the week!
Jamie Oliver in a chicken suit? You've got to see it to believe it, and luckily you can, thanks to our roundup of social snaps from your favorite chefs. See what other all-star cooks and bakers were up to this week, from dining in Spain to enjoying desserts at Disney World. It's a behind-the-scenes look that will get the laughs going and stomachs grumbling.
Some of our favorite food personalities were out snapping eats this week, and boy, were they pretty. We credit the start of Spring — and incredible cooking skills, of course. In case you missed it, we've rounded up colorful (and mouthwatering) Instagram and Twitter pics that names like Wolfgang Puck and Alton Brown were serving and sharing. Click on to see them yourself. Oh, and warning: you might be overcome by cuteness when you spy a playful Easter bunny pop.
It's no wonder that the always bright and colorful chef Anne Burrell absolutely adores Spring. I recently spoke to her about her shows on the Food Network, but she also had plenty to say about her favorite springtime produce, her ideal Easter menu, and how she stocks and organizes her kitchen.
POPSUGAR: We're approaching Spring. What produce do you love?
Anne Burrell: Spring is my favorite time of year. It's when Mother Nature is waking up again. Everything is light green, new, delicate, and delightful. Things like fava beans, ramps, spring onions, fiddlehead ferns, and morel mushrooms. It's such an exciting time of year.
PS: What does your ideal Easter menu look like?
AB: A big fat ham. If you're not a ham person, then definitely lamb, but I grew up having ham for Easter. Definitely lots of Spring veggies, like the ones I mentioned and asparagus. Of course, with an Easter menu, you have to have deviled eggs, because you just went for an Easter egg hunt. Definitely a bunch of egg salad sandwiches after that. I also love a Spring veggie crostata, a free-formed tart: mix fresh ricotta with Spring onion, some swiss chard, asparagus, and parmesan.