Posted By - Kate Spencer On January 28, 2016

The New York Project: Pastry, Nose-To-Tail and Dynasty Building


Amanda Freitag has been cooking professionally for more than 20 years with chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Passard, Diane Forley and Tom Valenti.

She is, in no particular order, Chef and TV personality and cookbook author and competitor on Iron Chef and Next Iron Chef. Yup, rock star.

As the popular judge on FOOD NETWORK’S CHOPPED, she was the chef at The Harrison until 2010 and was most recently the executive chef and co-owner of the Empire Diner, which she stepped away from last July to focus on TV and her new book, “THE CHEF NEXT DOOR”, which hit bookshelves last September.

Her vision for Empire Diner shines on with FOOD NETWORK’S AMERICAN DINER REVIVAL with Ty Pennington. On the show they take on one diner at a time, with Ty renovating the eateries and Amanda reimagining the menus. 

How does she keep her energy up? She does pilates to stretch and strengthen her core- restaurant jobs are grueling and being in great shape makes a huge difference in the kitchen.


As a pastry chef and "mom to 2 rocking girls in Brooklyn", in addition to being the 2005 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award winner, Karen DeMasco has mastered her skills in some of the best restaurant kitchens New York City has to offer. To no surprise, DeMasco was once part of Tom Colicchio’s Craft empire where she was known for bringing beautiful simplicity to the dessert menu. 

Her delectable maple budino dish became a staple at Locanda Verde and made the New York Times’ 11 most memorable dishes of 2009. It sounds more like an experience than a dessert when DeMasco explains, “You eat it and it makes you feel all warm inside.”

DeMasco earned her bachelor’s degree at Kenyon college and later moved to New York to begin her career in the publishing industry. It wasn’t until she started a small catering business out of her apartment that she discovered her passion for baking. She enrolled herself in night courses at the New York Restaurant School where she perfected her baking skills and started making a name for herself. Her tips for the home chef: “Don’t try a new recipe when you’re having people over! Stick to the tried and true; it’s less stressful, and a stressed-out hostess is no fun for anyone.”

While taking a break from the restaurant world, DeMasco wrote her cookbook with Mindy Fox, “The Craft of Baking” where she shares some of her signature recipes like her Toasted Almond Semifreddo (pictured below; photo and recipe from DeMasco may be unsure of what “the future holds for the restaurant pastry chef” but we are certain that she will continue to be a great success. 


Shuna Lydon is a Pastry Chef, Writer, Consultant and Instructor. Her award-winning blog Eggbeater brings the much-needed perspective that is by and for professional cooks, interspersed with personal writing, poetry and photography. 

Eggbeater was named one of the “Top 50 Food Blogs in the World” by the London Times and focuses on the lives of cooks, chefs, kitchens, and the reality of the not-so-glamorous lives they lead. As she says, “I consider myself to be part of the old-school or the old guard of cooks: tough, thorough, methodical and efficient in the kitchen.”

Lydon has cooked at Gramercy Tavern, The French Laundry, Aziza, Citizen Cake, Peels, and Anna Hansen’s The Modern Pantry in London as well as consulting for Ovenly and Bakeri in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She as truly a “Creator of Deliciousnesses and Organizer of Kitchens.”


Alex Raij described her three New York City restaurants in Cherry Bombe this way: Txikito’s food is “very naked” and Alex protects the story of simplicity. La Vara is “flavor and texture” focused with the most demanding prep and recipe tweaking. EQD - the acronym for El Quinto Pino - is “a well behaved older child I love to hang out with.” Each restaurant is a different story that she wants to tell and she still has many more stories to tell in her head.

Chef Alex Raij and her husband/co-chef Eder Montero took over the Ted & Honey Clinton Street space that is just two doors down from La Vara in Brooklyn. Eater has their new restaurant TEKOA on their radar for exciting openings in 2016.. The first cookbook by chef owners Raij and Montero, The Basque Book, is slated to be released in April 2016.

As a chef/owner and mom, Alex also answered the question of balancing family and being a chef. “Owning your own business is relentless but flexible.” As she told Lucky Peach as they took on the subject of the intersection of motherhood and being a chef:

“Bigger picture: I think being a parent makes you be a better person, makes you more patient. The thing no one told me, or I didn’t expect, is how exciting it is to be a parent.”


With an amazing career path that began in France and includes some of the most celebrated restaurants, Alex Guarnaschelli has taken her own powerful experience with amazing mentors and turned her attention to inspiring the generation of cooks.

Alex’s mother was cookbook editor Maria Guarnaschelli and Guarnaschelli learned to eat according to whatever book her mother was working on at the time, whether it was Indian or Italian.

She graduated from Barnard College in 1991 and to explore her culinary interests began working under the tutelage of the acclaimed American chef and restaurateur Larry Forgione.

Forgione encouraged Guarnaschelli to travel and expand her skill set, so she moved to France to do a work study at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy. After school, a four day stage at the Michelin three-star restaurant Guy Savoy in Pairs turned into four years as her skill set had her rapidly promoted to sous chef at La Butte Chaillot, another Savoy establishment. “The first three months were terrifying — imagine being a young American woman in charge of a French kitchen with 10 young, male cooks under you? Professionally, it was a life-changing experience,” she has said.

After seven successful years in France, Guarnaschelli returned to the US and joined Daniel Boulud at restaurant Daniel, where her skills again moved her quickly through the ranks to become sous chef. After New York, Guarnaschelli moved to Los Angeles for two years to join Joachim Splichal’s Patina Group, where she worked at the acclaimed Patina restaurant in West Hollywood before moving to New York to open Splichal's first New York City venture.

In 2003, Guarnaschelli became the executive chef at Butter Restaurant to create her own eclectic American and green market-inspired menu. In addition to her restaurant work, Guarnaschelli is a mentor and inspiration to student chefs as an instructor at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Guarnaschelli is also helming the kitchen of the NYC modern dining and cabaret concept, The Darby.

Chef Guarnaschelli is also a TV personality fan-favorite and Food Network has given her many platforms to shine: Chopped, The Cooking Loft and Alex's Day Off, Iron Chef America as both a challenger and a judge and as a competitor on season 4 of The Next Iron Chef. In 2012, she bested nine rival chefs to win The Next Iron Chef: Redemption and joined the ranks of Kitchen Stadium Iron Chefs. Alex released her premiere cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook (Clarkson Potter, 2013), in spring 2013.

In October 2015, Guarnaschelli opened three new concept restaurants in Miami at the new Nautilus South Beach Hotel, 1825 Collins Ave, where she is overseeing all the F&B for the hotel. The Driftwood Room is the main dining room, The Nautilus Cabana Club serves more casual fare by the pool and Alex is also in charge of the property's lobby bar.The menu for Driftwood is described as, "cuisine of South France with a Miami palate." Dishes like cobia crudo, whole roasted cauliflower and Florida head-on shrimp. 


Christina Lecki is one of the talents in the team that is helping April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman build their amazing restaurant dynasty: from The Spotted Pig to The Breslin Bar & Dining Room to The John Dory Oyster Bar to Salvation Taco and Tosca in San Francisco.

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room was opened in the Ace Hotel in Manhattan’s Flatiron District in 2009. As with only the greatest hotel restaurants, the locals outnumber any tourists. With a Michelin star, adoration from foodies and travelers who love the British-accented pub fare, that is both refined and rustic and pushes you to rethink the classic. As Eater says “it's worth noting that The Breslin, five years after opening, has grown into the best place to eat meat in The Big Apple, period.”

The hearty, meat-centric menu at The Breslin has a strong emphasis on artisanal products, small growers, and seasonality. With nose-to-tail cooking, handmade terrines, sausages, charcuterie, the rich-salty-roasted flavors are amazing.

When asked about the talent pool and the need for more women at the helm of kitchens, Ken Friedman refers to Christina Lecki as a “superstar”: “She'd like to do her own thing, but she loves us, so eventually we'll do a restaurant built around her.” 

In the meantime, Lecki has been given creative reign at The Breslin. With her helping opening the John Dory Oyster Bar in 2011, she has a wealth of knowledge about seafood and incorporated a large format lobster boil at The Breslin. It was fully supported by avid fisherwoman and clammer April Bloomfield and as with all elements of the Bloomfield/Friedman group, everything is sourced locally.

Book a night at the new dinner series The Breslin Downstairs in The Breslin's event space at Liberty Hall, at 20 West 29th Street. Each month Lecki will focus on a unique aspect of wine and food culture and celebrate the community of chefs, farmers, foragers, wine producers, writers, and epicureans who contribute to our vibrant culinary scene.


Award-Winning Pastry Chef Ghaya Oliveira first came to the New York from her native Tunisia in 1998 and decided to leave her career as a stock trader and pursue creative challenges in the culinary world.

She was ready however for her new career that was just as teeming with testosterone and competition. With traditional French pastry training, a refined palate, unexpected flavor combinations, Ghaya Oliveira is a testament to skill, hard work and patience. “Working in a kitchen is not easy at all. It's very challenging for anyone, not just because I'm a woman. It's a big sacrifice and—it sounds really awful—work comes first. My family was second to me, and they understand because they knew how much I wanted this, so they were very patient.”

She graduated from the Culinary Academy and then earned a degree in Restaurant Management from the French Culinary Institute. Ghaya joined Café Boulud in New York in 2001.

When Chef Daniel Boulud opened Bar Boulud in 2007, he called upon Ghaya to become Executive Pastry Chef. Being responsible for menu development and sourcing ingredients, citing the local farmers’ markets as inspiration.

In July 2013, Boulud named Ghaya Executive Pastry at his flagship DANIEL. Boulud notes: "Ghaya is a success story that I never tire of telling—pastry was not her first career, and she's worked her way up within the organization. She is a rare culinary talent, constantly growing and innovating, and precisely the type of chef I look to helm my flagship restaurant."

She was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2012 and again in 2015. 

Cook On!

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