Chef Tregaye Fraser has had a busy year. She won Season 12 of Food Network Star, appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games, and she recently took up hosting duties on the hit Food Network show, Kitchen Sink. We caught up with the culinary wizard fresh off her headlining appearance at Chef Week at Villa del Palmar at The Islands of Loreto to chat about her new gig, cooking for former President Obama, and Cinco de Mayo.
What has life been like since winning Food Network Star? Tregaye Fraser: My life has completely changed. I have met every single person I have seen on television and sat at home and wanted to be like “I wish we were friends.” I have done a lot of traveling and done a lot of shows. (Chef) Mark Murphy is my favorite. He is so nice and warm and welcoming. And of course, Guy (Fieri) is my number one man—all day, every day. He mentored me before while I was on the show. He keeps in touch and guides me through. Alex Guarnaschelli is now my mentor and I am loving it.
You recently headlined Chef Week at Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort and Spa at the Islands of Loreto, Mexico. What is one item you want to use this Cinco de Mayo based on your time in Mexico? TF: I want to use hibiscus to make a sauce. I want to marinate shrimp in hibiscus and make a sweet and spicy hibiscus sauce to go on top. My husband is from Guyana and they drink hibiscus there but they call it “sorro.” They make it like a drink so I want to do something like that with hibiscus.
Let’s talk Cinco de Mayo. Where is one place in LA you love to go for great Mexican food and drink? TF: Casa Vega is the bomb.com. They have such good food. The guacamole is so authentic. I love the shrimp tacos, the quesadillas. I am recently pescaterian. I only eat meat for work but I always go for the taco or quesadilla. They tricked me there. I wanted queso dip but they are so authentic—they brought me stringy delicious cheese dip. They have the hand fried, hand rolled masa chips that are amazing.
Tell us about cooking for President Obama. TF: I was working in Orlando at Citron Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton. We were so busy that night—we had 500 covers. Whenever Obama walked by the kitchen, we had to stop everything you are doing and tickets kept rolling on the floor—it was crazy. At the end of the night, my chef asked me, “Do you have some more of that duck confit ravioli you made for me earlier?” I said, “Yes. There is some in the fridge.” He asked if I wanted to make some for someone and I said, ‘No. Not really.” He said, “Come on, you’re going to be happy.” I am cursing the whole time I am making it. The plates go out and come back empty. I am trying to run and my boss asks if I want to see who I made it for and I just wanted to get out. So, he tells me to put my apron on but it was dirty. So, he gave me his and I walk up and I walked up and was at a loss for words. He was so tall. I never said anything. He said, “We really enjoyed your food.” I said thank you and sort of walked off. We got a picture, but I was so shocked!