We have secured another interview with a judge from Food Network’s hit show, “Chopped.” Amanda Freitag, who is a frequent judge on the show, is one of the judges for the current round of “Chopped Champions,” which began last Tuesday. The show, which pits winners of the regular show from the past few seasons, continues tonight and the five-week event concludes September 28 with a finale of the previous four winners. Anyway, here is our chat with Amanda Freitag:

Premium Hollywood: So what did you notice about the level of skill from the chefs in the “Chopped Champions” round as opposed to just the show “Chopped?”

Amanda Freitag: I noticed that the food was much more complex and the flavors were at a higher level.

PH: I’ve seen and heard (and contributed to) criticism about the judges being too harsh on the show, though that seems to have changed recently. What’s your take on that in general?

AF: Well, I would say we are nothing of the Simon Cowell sort but we take cooking and serving food very seriously. We have all been doing this essentially as long as we have been chefs and it is just like the hiring process, we have to decide if we would want that cook to cook for us every day or in this case in the “Chopped” kitchen for the next round. I don’t think any of the judges have softened up, but I myself have learned what is good criticism compared to what is just useless berating, and I am not interested in that.

PH: Do you feel like your experience on “The Next Iron Chef” (last season) gives you a different perspective than some of the other judges for this competition, and if so, how?

AF: I think my experience on “The Next Iron Chef” gave me a different perspective all around. I know what it feels like to stand in front of that judges table with cotton mouth and my heart racing and second-guessing everything I have ever done up until this moment. Aaron (Sanchez) knows what that feels like because he competed in the first season of “The Next Iron Chef” and all the other judges with the exception of Chris Santos, have battled in kitchen stadium. It makes it even more suspenseful for me because I get right in there with those cooks and I am taking the ride with them as I watch them cook, because I am a cook at heart. But you will get no sympathy from me if you cook poorly! It is just unacceptable, I know good food can be produced under those conditions……I’ve done it!

PH: What is the one ingredient you’ve seen on “Chopped” that made you shake your head and wonder how the producers could be so vindictive to the chefs?

AF: I think rattlesnake really did it for me. I have never eaten it, never cooked with it and frankly was afraid of it!

PH: Who are your favorite judges to work with on the show and why?

AF: Now you are really starting trouble! I love them all, we have a lot of fun working together. It is rare in our industry that three chefs get to sit down uninterrupted for 12 hours and share our stories. We are a deliciously dysfunctional family of judges, we are all very different and that makes for some great TV!

“Chopped Champions” airs Tuesday nights at 10pm ET/PT/ 9pm CT
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