Main Stage Chefs
2018 Kohler Food & Wine
Through her work in professional restaurant kitchens, as a food television personality and now author, Amanda Freitag has become more than a chef; she is “The Chef Next Door.” While the moniker is derived from the title of Amanda’s first cookbook, The Chef Next Door: A Pro Chef's Recipes for Fun, Fearless Home Cooking, it also aptly conveys both her professionalism and warm, accessible personality. These traits have served her well as a judge on Food Network’s hit series, Chopped, and as the cohost of Food Network’s American Diner Revival with Ty Pennington.
Growing up in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, Amanda’s passion for food was evident at an early age. Unlike most typical fourth graders, Amanda packed multicoursed lunches in a large grocery bag, and her earliest memories involved a fascination with the film Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe and baking homemade doughnuts with her grandma. At age 15, she fell in love with entertaining through food and the fast-paced excitement of restaurants when she took a job working in a large banquet hall, and later, at an à la carte concept. When Amanda showed real talent in her high school home economics class, her teacher encouraged her to pursue a cooking career. After graduation, she enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
After graduating from culinary school, Amanda’s first position in a New York City kitchen was as rotissier and garde manger at Vong led by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It was here Amanda was first introduced to marrying the French technique with Southeast Asian ingredients and flavors. In 1994 she transitioned to Verbena under chef Diane Forley, a female pioneer in the predominantly male restaurant industry who became one of Amanda’s greatest mentors. At Verbena, Amanda rose quickly through the ranks to become the restaurant’s chef de cuisine learning, among other things, the importance of using local, organic ingredients.
In 2000 she traveled extensively through France and Italy to explore the bountiful markets and progressive restaurant scenes. While in Paris, she spent two weeks working under Chef Alain Passard at his venerable restaurant, Arpège. At Arpège, Passard insisted on using only the freshest ingredients, leaving nothing but butter in the walk-in refrigerators at the end of service. This eye-opening experience made an impression, helping to further develop Amanda’s deep appreciation of superlative ingredients and the flavors of the Mediterranean region.
Upon returning to New York, Amanda worked at some of the city’s most popular restaurants including Cesca, where she cooked alongside Tom Valenti as his chef de cuisine. In 2006 Amanda was named the executive chef at Gusto in the West Village, where her Italian food was met with critical acclaim. In January 2008, Amanda took over as the executive chef at The Harrison in Tribeca. Over the years when she helmed the kitchen, The Harrison received numerous accolades from local and national media and earned a two-star review from The New York Times restaurant critic who lauded Amanda’s work as “exemplary.”
In 2008 Amanda shared her culinary knowledge and experience with a broader audience, joining the judging panel on Food Network’s competition series Chopped. In May 2015, she launched her own show concept, American Diner Revival, with co-host Ty Pennington, in which she lends her expertise to struggling classic diners across the country. On the small screen, Amanda has also competed on Iron Chef America, America’s Next Iron Chef, and she has appeared on Unique Eats and other shows on Cooking Channel.
In September 2015, Amanda launched her first cookbook, The Chef Next Door: A Pro Chef’s Recipes for Fun, Fearless Home Cooking. She teaches how to think like a chef—to consider seasonality, balancing flavors, understanding the steps and learning how to improvise—to create a menu and execute dishes with pro techniques, as if she were right there in the kitchen. The Chef Next Door shares a diverse range of dishes such as Spinach Feta Pies, Kale and Farro Salad with Aged Goat Cheese, Lusty Lemon Chicken, Pop’s Beer-Braised Bold Beef Stew, Mediterranean Potato Salad, Marinated Artichokes, Cocoa Carrot Cake and more.
When she is not in the kitchen, Amanda enjoys traveling the world and collecting restaurant menus to add to her ever-growing collection.
Marcus Samuelsson is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide including Red Rooster Harlem, Red Rooster Shoreditch, and Marcus B&P. Marcus was the youngest person to ever receive a three-star review from The New York Times and has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards including Best Chef: New York City.
He was tasked with planning and executing the Obama administration’s first state dinner. Marcus was also crowned champion of television shows Top Chef Masters and Chopped All Stars, and he served as a mentor on ABC’s The Taste. A committed philanthropist, Marcus coproduces the annual weeklong festival Harlem EatUp!, which celebrates the food, art and culture of Harlem. Marcus is cochair of the board of directors for Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). In May 2016, he was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. He is the author of multiple books including The New York Times best-selling memoir Yes, Chef, the young adult version—Make It Messy, Marcus Off Duty cookbook, and his newest book—The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem. In addition, he is one of the founders of the website Food Republic. In 2017 he opened Red Rooster Shoreditch in East London and most recently opened Marcus B&P in Newark, New Jersey, and Streetbird Express at the world-famous Madison Square Garden. His new series with Vox/Eater and PBS entitled No Passport Required, which aired this year.
Chef Fabio Viviani has harbored a passion for food since his childhood growing up in Florence, Italy. Between training in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine at the top hospitality schools and working with culinary luminaries such as Alessandro Panzani and Saverio Carmagini, Fabio also owned and operated several concepts by the time he was 27 including two nightclubs and five restaurants in Florence. Although a well-respected businessman in Italy, he was ready for a change, and in 2005 Fabio moved to California where he opened his first U.S.-based restaurant Café Firenze in Moorpark, California.
Teaming up with one of Chicago’s restaurant consulting groups, Dine|Amic, Fabio opened Siena Tavern in Chicago in 2013, and the following year he opened Mercato by Fabio Viviani, a quick-service Italian concept with branches in Chicago and San Diego. In 2015 Fabio continued to make a name for himself in Chicago by opening Bar Siena and Prime & Provisions. In 2016 he expanded to the LAX Delta terminal with the opening of Osteria by Fabio Viviani, which won USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Airport Sitdown Dining” in 2018. Simultaneously, he opened additional Mercato by Fabio locations in Tempe, Phoenix, Cleveland and Benton Harbor. In 2017 Fabio opened the Press Room in Detroit right after his February opening of Portico by Fabio Viviani in New York’s del Lago Resort & Casino.
Looking ahead to 2018, Fabio plans to open restaurants in Tampa, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Oklahoma City. He also plans to open high-end food courts in Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Missouri before the end of the year.
Best known for his television debut on Bravo’s hit series Top Chef—earning the “Fan Favorite” title—his on-screen appearances have propelled him to become one of the top culinary names in the country.
He is a recurring guest on national television shows such as Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Chew, and countless Food Network Shows such as Cutthroat Kitchen: All-Star Tournament, which he won. In February 2017, he released Fabio’s Kitchen, a 52-episode cooking show hosted on YouTube followed by a second season that was launched in May 2018.
Offscreen, Fabio is a regular headliner at global food events. He also owns a Maine-based seafood delivery service called Lobster by Fabio and a winery in Sonoma that produces the five wine varietals in the Fabio Viviani Wine Collection.
In addition to having his own lines of cookware and culinary gadgets, he has also been a proud spokesman for international brands and has authored four successful cookbooks: Café Firenze Cookbook, The New York Times Best-Seller Fabio’s Italian Kitchen, Fabio’s American Home Kitchen and most recently Fabio’s 30- Minute Italian.
His varied accomplishments have impressed many, resulting in his induction into the Chicago Culinary Museum and Chefs Hall of Fame as 2017 Chef of the Year on March 8, 2017.
Following Fabio’s initiation, the mayor of Chicago also declared March 8, 2017, to be Chef Fabio Viviani Day in Chicago, encouraging Chicagoans to recognize his achievements and contributions not only to his home city, but also to the nation’s culinary scene.
Jack Bishop is the chief creative officer of America’s Test Kitchen. He was part of the original team that started America’s Test Kitchen, beginning with the launch of Cook’s Illustrated in 1993. Jack directed the launch of Cook’s Country magazine in 2005 and the building of the company’s book publishing division. He is the tasting lab expert on America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen. Jack leads the creative teams working on the company’s television shows, magazines, books, websites and online cooking school. Jack is the author of several cookbooks including Vegetables Every Day and The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook.
Bridget Lancaster is the host of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen, and is also an executive editor for America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook division. She began working as a test cook for Cook’s Illustrated in 1998 and is an original cast member of both television shows. Bridget’s earlier career led her to cook in restaurant kitchens in the South and Northeast, concentrating on pastry.
Julia Collin Davison
Julia Collin Davison is the host of America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen and leads the recipe development team for America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbooks. She began working as a test cook for Cook’s Illustrated in 1999 and is an original cast member of both television shows. Julia holds an A.O.S. from The Culinary Institute of America and a B.A. in psychology and philosophy from SUNY Albany. She has worked in Albany, the Berkshires, San Francisco and Napa Valley at several restaurants, catering companies, schools and wineries.