It was the smells of her grandmother’s cooking every day after school that would tease Tregaye Fraser’s taste buds. The 31-year-old Atlanta native remembers coming in the door, immediately dropping her backpack and closing her eyes to take it all in. “We never had leftovers. It was always something different,” says the Food Network host.
Fraser is the latest culinary professional to win the network’s coveted title of Food Network Star last July. The season 12 winner beat out 12 other contestant hopefuls to become the co-host of “Kitchen Sink,” which premiered Sunday, January 15 at 11 am EST. “It’s all about culinary trends, kitchen hacks, shortcuts, showing new techniques to take your cooking to the next level and we also talk about all of the foodie things on social media,” says Fraser who has always wanted a culinary talk show. For 13 episodes, viewers can tune-in to catch Fraser along with chef Spike Mendelsohn and Fanny Slater discover must-haves and chop it up over what is happening in the culinary industry. “I have been just soaking it all in and enjoying the new job.”
Born in Philadelphia, Fraser started her career at the young age of 15 after working as a housekeeper at a Holiday Inn. Her persistence to work in the kitchen paid off when the chef gave her a chance. From there she was hooked. Fraser attended Le Cordon Bleu before working at some of Atlanta’s high-end restaurants and hotels to build her resume and perfect her craft.
She describes her cooking as food fusion. “I take every day food and create them in an unconventional way.” Fried oyster deviled egg with chipotle hollandaise and ham and cheddar waffles with spicy fried chicken and siracha-honey mayonnaise are just a few fusion examples that have her catering clients clamoring for her services.
Since winning, she has been very busy with her growing business, has appeared as a guest judge on other culinary reality shows and a guest chef at popular food and wine festivals. “When I auditioned, I just wanted to be able to bring something new. A new personality, a new feeling and a new style to the network. I went into the interview thinking either they are going to like me or they not. And I just went for it,” says the 17-year veteran. Initially Fraser struggled to bring her authentic self to the competition. She says after watching herself during the first challenge, she cried. “I cried because I said, ‘Who is that?’ I don’t even know who that is. From there that was another turning point because I don’t like how I look when I try to be someone else.”
In the end, it was Fraser’s personality and drive that won judges over. For Fraser, it was a lesson that not only were the judges looking for someone who could cook, but also someone who felt comfortable in his/her skin because that is what viewers will be drawn too. “I know I have a huge personality and I’m always telling people, ‘Be yourself, be yourself,’ and I had to take my own advice and not be afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted for who I am.”
Photo credit: Food Network