Chef Anne Burrell’s new Food Network show, Chef Wanted, features chefs competing for Executive Chef positions throughout the country. It is living proof of the idiom, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”
We reached out to Chef Bryon Freeze (@BFreeze) after his victory on the premiere episode of Chef Wanted and this is what he had to say:
FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef? What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
BF: I started cooking when I was 15 years old. I was working at a Burger King in Maryland. I tried many other jobs throughout high school, but nothing seemed to keep me excited like the rush of service in a kitchen. After graduating and living at the beach for a summer I decide I wanted to become a Chef. As a child I was a picky eater and always took forever to eat dinner. I would sit at the dinner table and experiment with mixing condiments to create sauces. I guess that was when I first started developing the desire to be a Chef. The thing I enjoy most about being a chef is the ability to build memories with guests by crafting an experience through food. When you are given the opportunity to make a dish that a guest calls, “the best they ever had,” it really is gratifying and moments like that are priceless.
FP: Name some of your favorite chefs and why.
BF: Thomas Keller since he has been influencing my generation since we were teenagers and his amazing food, and a level of execution that we aspire for everyday. Daniel Humm for his collaborative style and level of creativity at Eleven Madison Park is something I desire to achieve someday. Grant Achatz is already an inspiration with the level of food he develops. After reading his book, “Life, On The Line,” I have an even higher level of respect for what he has been through. His stories of countless hours in the kitchen really hit home.
FP: First off congratulations on winning Chef Wanted and becoming the Executive Chef at Mucho Ultimo! Tell us about your experience on the show. What was the entire process like? What was it like to compete with the other chefs?
BF: Chef Wanted was a great experience. You definitely find out who you are and what you are made out of when you are pushed mentally and physically to the extreme. There were definitely a lot of emotions involved. At the time of production I didn’t have a lot of job opportunities on the horizon. I had taken a risk by leaving my job, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to execute at a high level. Very stressful, and a great learning experience.
FP: When you are home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself? If you go out to eat, name some favorite places. What are some of your guilty pleasures (if any)? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name.
I’m not home very often, but when I am home I like to cook with healthy seasonal ingredients. Usually sourced from local Farmer’s Markets when possible.
It’s also rare that I go out to eat since I’m usually in the kitchen at work. I do like Red Medicine and .Ink in LA. I think guys like Jordan Kahn and Michael Voltaggio are doing some amazing things right now. Plus its nice to support other fellow Marylanders like the Voltaggio bros. Before I moved to Manhattan Beach I liked spending my days off in Newport Beach at Bear Flag Fish Company or Tabu Shabu, two casual restaurant concepts doing some killer food. Sometimes fish tacos or shabu shabu can be just as good as the nicest restaurants in town.
FP: What is the one item from the kitchen that every chef MUST own?
BF: Many things come to mind, but the most basic item would have to be a sharp Chef’s knife!
FP: Name 3 individuals you would want to invite over for dinner and what you would prepare for them.
BF: My parents, my brother and his wife, and Ray Lewis. (I’m adding 2) I never get to see my family since we all live so far apart and my family are all huge Raven’s fans. It would be an honor to cook a simple, locally sourced, farm to table meal for my family and the greatest Raven’s player and possibly one of the best defensive players in the history of the NFL.
FP: Oh, you’re a Ravens fan? Half of Foodie Pleasure follows Ray Rice because they share the same hometown!
Back to the food… any tips for novice chefs?
BF: No one is going to give you a Chef job, you have to earn it. Hard work is the key to success in the restaurant business. You have to be passionate and dedicated to food and really love what you do. Cooking is the easy part of being a Chef. Being a leader and making daily important decisions is one of the more challenging parts of being a Chef. Finding a way to ensure an exceptional guest experience on a nightly basis is no easy task. Be prepared to be pushed to the limit every night.
FP: In three words, how would your friends describe you?
BF: Passionate, determined, focused
FP: Where will we see Chef Bryon Freeze in ten years?
BF: In the next ten years I hope to be a successful restaurant owner. I have been learning the ins and outs of restaurant operations for many years, and look forward to the chance to run my own business someday soon.
FP: Chef, thanks for sharing your time and story with us. We’re heading to Baltimore in a few weeks and will be on the lookout for Ray Lewis!
Chef Bryon Freeze is currently the Executive Chef at Mucho Ultima in Manhattan Beach, CA. Be sure to check it out!