I've exhausted all of my cooking skills throughout this quarantine and now I'm craving something flavorful and easy to make. While I could opt for the microwaveable macaroni and cheese, that's not satisfying nor delicious. However, I tapped Food Network's "Chopped" judge Amanda Freitag to get the new recipe ideas, learn about Blue Apron and the best cooking hacks for a college student. 

Amanda Freitag X Blue Apron Interview

Photo courtesy of Blue Apron

1. We are living in a time where cooking is on the back of many people’s minds. What would you recommend to people who are looking for restaurant style meals and comfort classics using fresh quality ingredients without all the effort?

Restaurant "style" meals usually involve exotic spices or unique techniques that you wouldn't do at home. My suggestion is to start to venture out of your comfort zone and try a new cooking technique like searing or braising. Add some new spices to your spice cabinet. Online spice shopping can be the best form of retail therapy! And of course, tap into Blue Apron as a resource, the meals and ingredients are restaurant level in quality and flavor and they do the shopping for you.

2. Since we are in back-to-school season, can you share any recipes that are fit for school and any cooking tips you might have for a parent on-the-go?

School night cooking has to be fast and crowd pleasing. Two of my favorite recipes that I have in collaboration with Blue Apron are the "Crispy Southern Chicken" and "The French onion soup burger' They both flip the usual chicken or ground beef dinner options on their heads without a lot of extra prep time. My cooking tips that apply for chefs and home cooks are always to prep. Gather your ingredients, have everything cut, cleaned and prepped and then when you actually start cooking it's a breeze!

3. As a college student, I’m not the best chef. Do you have any advice for people looking to start their cooking journey?

Yes! get a few basics, a sauté pan, a wooden spoon, and a good knife and get in the kitchen! Practice, practice, practice, so much of learning to cook is trial and error, hands on experience is the only way. I have some very helpful videos on my IGTV and my YouTube channel, called "EasyAF". These tutorials are perfect for the beginner cook. Blue Apron is also a great way to learn how to cook. They provide the exact ingredients and walk you through every step. It's like riding a bike with training wheels!

4. Mealtime is an important part of the day for many people. Do you have any memories that you hold near and dear to your heart from childhood?

When I was growing up both my parents worked, they didn't have the option to have the help of Blue Apron. So, our Sunday night dinners were the most elaborate and most well attended :) We always had classic comfort foods, whether it was meatloaf/mashed potatoes & green beans, Roast chicken and gravy or the always soul-satisying Spaghetti with meatballs. Sunday nights were the best!

5. Since you grew up in NY, do you have any favorite diners or go-to restaurants that people can support during this time?

I grew up in New Jersey and the local diner in my hometown actually closed right before quarantine, I just think people thought it would always be there. So my strongest recommendation is to support your local diner or "mom and pop" restaurant. They will not always be there without your support.

6. How do you think the restaurant industry will change as a result of this current crisis?

I have faith that the restaurant industry will come back strong and people will appreciate everything about the dining out experience so much more now. I think the size of the restaurant staff will most likely decrease, making a business that was difficult to be in exponentially harder, so tip well and go often!