Most people watch reality TV shows for the same reason they watch boxing, MMA fights, and NASCAR. To see the battles, the wrecks, the fights, the disasters, and the human toll it takes. For the fans of MasterChef this season it is the brutal and sometimes harsh battle between Stephen and Derrick. This year it is a battle between two people who respect and acknowledge the others talent. They are frenemies. Last year, it was Courtney and Elizabeth. They battled, but it was because they disliked one another on a personal level.
We love to watch these battles unfold but secretly hope that none of the people involved will be from our state. We want the people from our state to be kind to everyone, loved by the judges, talented, and true to themselves. This year that was Katrina Kozar.
She not only represented herself well, but she showed everyone that Wisconsin is more than just cheese, brats and The Green Bay Packers (even though all those things are all very nice).
Found In Wisconsin spoke to Katrina and one of the show’s Public Relations personnel Courtney and we found out a whole lot more about what why Katrina is so loveable.
Me: Did you have a strategy going into MasterChef?
Katrina: I did. I decided to be real, first of all. My strategy was to be 100% me. I decided to cook from my heart and be who I am. You don’t see that often on reality TV. I love camaraderie. I really wanted us to be a team instead of not being one. I think we became more of a family instead of people playing against each other. This isn’t Survivor, the judges have the final say. So I was most concerned, if I was going to be on a nationally broadcasted television show, that I wanted to represent me, my friends and family and that they would know that that was me and no one else. I didn’t want to be fake. That’s the one thing that drives me nuts. I didn’t want to be a different character on and off screen. I wanted to stay true to me and be true.
Me: In the beginning we saw you struggle with confidence. With that struggle what compelled you to try out? When and where did you finally start to find your confidence?
Katrina: I think I always had the confidence or I wouldn’t had tried out. The first episode was the first time I met the judges and I was very nervous and it was a 30 minute cook. I wasn’t use to where things were or the ovens and I got nervous. But,I think when you are put into a room with other people who think they are better than you. I think that’s when I was questioning, was I chosen right. We had 20 other people who were sent home that day. I’ve always been the underdog, I’ve always been picked last in sports. I know that cooking has always been something that I love to do and that I am really good at, but it kinda made me feel like I was in High School again or even Middle School. You cannot be there and not compare yourself. People talked a lot. Mainly people talked about how great they were and I really wanted to see the proof. Show me. Show me what you can create.
My Schnitzel was called first by Gordon out of all 22, it really felt great to be called and recognized when I was questioning “Do I deserve to be here?” “Do I want to be here?” “Are these the top 22 people in America cooking?” These are the type of questions when you have been transported out of your home and sent far away and have limited access to family and friends. That confidence just kept on building because I believed in myself and the judges were so unbelievable supportive and encouraging. The first challenge that we won, the 100th episode, with Olivia as team captain, I was really really proud. I was proud of our team and with how Olivia did and how we finished the challenge and rocked it. That was the start of “Yes. I’m here for a reason.”
Me: I have always wondered this and you may not be able to answer this. You have seen on the show where someone is told to make something like a cake and they will say “I’ve never made this before.” Do they somehow coach you in some way to help you or give you some sort guidance on the ingredients? So, when it comes down to the challenges where you are fighting for your life they have some chance to make the item?
Courtney: (Public Relations for MasterChef): I’ll go ahead and answer that one Katrina. They do not receive any training on the set. They are allowed to study cookbooks when they are in their room at night or on their down time. They are able to bring the cookbook that they want with them, so they can study that in their off time but they are not given any lessons on the individual challenges.
Me: One last question about MasterChef and then I want to ask you some questions about you and Wisconsin. What was your hardest moment on MasterChef?
Katrina: There were two episodes that were the hardest for me. It was the amusement park, the first team challenge, and then the picking your partner.
Me: Why was that?
Katrina: The first one was the first team challenge that we ever had and I think we didn’t have a good leader to help us. It was Darah and she was concentrating on smiling instead of cooking. I think a lot of people didn’t volunteer and we weren’t directed in the right way. But I want to remind you this was the first time we ever worked as a team. We’re all home cooks. I think people forget that. We’ve never worked in restaurants before. It’s a lot of pressure. We have no clue what we’re doing and it was really hard.
Me: I did notice that you love mustard. How did the tradition of making homemade mustard get started?
Katrina: It was through my sister Sarah. I am one of four youngest girls and we all love to cook and try new things and she decided one day “I think I’m going to try to make mustard.” We would also make pickles and stuff and we just really would cook together a lot. We didn’t know what the hell we were doing at first. You are supposed to soak the seeds for a long time, well we only soaked them for like 2 hours, and we tried to macerate them through our food processor. We just thought it’d be fun. One great thing about cooking is that there’s so much you can do with it. There’s so many different entities that you can try or experience or explore. I love mustard preferably Dijon or anything horseradishy. My friend Kathy came over that day when we first started, she was there for the train wreck. Mustard making just ballooned into something that is now highly planned and organized. Now every October/November we have two different mustard parties and we invite people who’ve never made it or who love mustard. We try not to reinvite people that have already done it because we want to have an experience with other people who might enjoy it or who never thought “Hey, you can actually make mustard.” It’s just fun. We just hang out with the music, drink wine and make mustard. I love it. I use it all the time.
Me: What’s your favorite thing to put it on?
Katrina: Well, I make my own homemade salad dressing. People don’t make homemade salad dressing. I think people should, bottom line. You don’t know what’s in the chemically bottled dressing. I think people think it’s hard to do and it’s not. I like to eat salad whenever I can for dinner and the best way to improve it is to have your own salad dressing. I love to put it on pork tenderloin with maple syrup. It’s kind of like a little marinade and then I always use it in pan sauces. After you cook a steak and you want a little sauce you can just use Dijon mustard, chicken broth or beef stock, then shallots, and then finish it off with butter. I try to use it a lot.It’s just a really good combination.
It’s a dream of mine to go to Dijon, France. I haven’t been to France yet. Technically we can’t call our mustard Dijon because it’s not made in Dijon. I guess we should call it Milwaukee, but it doesn’t make any sense to do that.
Me: Your Aunt Jeanie was really involved with Betty Crocker and Julia Child. Who do you contribute your love and cooking to?
Katrina: Myself. My parents always cooked, but I always wanted to be in the kitchen. I always wanted to help my mom. It was never like you must do this. I wanted to. It’s my passion. My mom was there because she had to. I wanted to be in the kitchen because I loved it. She showed me how to cook, but I don’t think she was the inspiration to keep me fighting to cook or learning new recipes. They are the building blocks of my learning how to cook, but that’s who I am. I’ve always loved it. I’ve always loved to eat, first of all, so cooking just made sense. I’ve always been able to taste things and know this doesn’t work together. We’re all foodies. All my sisters and I love to cook.
We had a big garden so we learned from our parents how to be better cooks. I want to tell you that my inspiration was my parents. They molded me into who I am. They taught me the basic fundamental properties of cooking, but they don’t know half the stuff that I am cooking now, and I attribute that to myself. I’ve always pushed myself in this arena because I know I’m good at it and it’s my true passion.
Me: Are you drawn to the cookbook section of Barnes and Noble to check out all the different types of cookbooks and delve into those different types of cuisine you normally wouldn’t try like, Asian, German, Swedish?
Katrina: I think I’m more of internet than book. I do have a huge collection of cookbooks because of my Aunt Jeanie and my friends know that I love to cook, so I get quite a bit of cookbooks. I research recipes and techniques online. I’ll read about an author or some recipe and decide if I want to order their book it or not. A lot of my cooking comes from research and then I just expand on it. It’s not the recipe that you are given in the book. It has been changed a bit. It’s never the same.
Me: So what is your favorite cookbook? The one that you always go back to time and time again, that’s a little dog-eared and that you not only use for cooking but also for inspiration.
Katrina: I really love Alice Waters. She is all about simple food. She’s from California and she’s fantastic. I also really love Diana Kennedy. She’s what made me start cooking authentic Mexican food. I love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He’s from England and owns River Cottage. I really love the idea of cooking from the forces that be, meaning from the earth and seasonally. Mark Bittman is another person I really love. Simple and easy to use recipes, plus he is a fantastic writer. Julia Child, I sometimes just look at her books not to think about doing, just thinking about how many hours she spent on creating her first book with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle and how many revisions it took. I actually have a signed copy of “The Way to Cook” from Julia Childs. It was given to my Aunt Jeanie as she assisted Julia for a morning show. She just gifted it to me last year! It’s one of my prized possessions. I always had a really deep passion for Martha Stewart. I think she’s lovely. I’ve been watching her on PBS for most of my life. Anybody on PBS is who I’ve always watched, not Food Network. It’s been PBS. Those are just to name a few.
Me: Is there a dish that you’ve been too intimidated to make?
Katrina: Sure. Probably like a rack of beef. You know like the ones with crowns, Crown Beef. Never made it. I think it’s expensive first of all. I don’t think I’m intimidated at all by it. I just don’t want to spend the money. I’m kind of frugal. Meaning that if I’m going to make something, I’m going to make something nice. I don’t want to screw it up. Cooking is learning. I’m not the one who is going to learn right away. It takes me awhile to master things. I’ve never cooked that but I’ve always wanted to. I’ve always found that it looks beautiful on a magazine cover, but you don’t want to screw anything up. You only have one chance.
Me: Where are your favorite places to eat? Not just places in Milwaukee but anywhere.
Katrina: These are a few places that I really love. I love EE-Sane in Milwaukee which is a Thai restaurant. It’s my favorite. I could eat Thai food every day. Frankie’s pizza in Ashland, I think is one of the best pizza places. Balistreris off of 68th Street (http://www.balistreris.com/ ) is my go to pizza place around here. Ardent and Red Light Ramen, Justin Carlisle was nominated as a finalist for the Best Chef Midwest for the James Beard award in 2015. Odd Duck in Bayview, their chicken liver mousse is something that I want to bath in. Lake Park Bistro (https://www.facebook.com/lakeparkbistro?fref=ts) and Chez Jaquez (https://www.facebook.com/Chez-Jacques-110119982351911/timeline/) is where I like to eat French food. Plus, that view of Lake Michigan is to die for at Lake Park Bistro. My ultimate favorite is Phan’s Garden. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant off of 27th Street.
Me: What about places to visit?
Katrina: I went to college in Stevens Point, so I have a love relationship with Stevens Point. I really love Ashland and Bayfield. My parents are from there. I remember hanging out with my grandma, making lasagna and cooking in the kitchen with her in Ashland. In Superior there’s another place that I love called The Anchor Bar (http://anchorbarandgrill.com/). Best place to get hamburgers and fresh cut french fries. The hamburgers are cheap and delicious. I am a truly, a belly up to the bar, type of person and not only do I appreciate fancy food, but I have a huge passion for great bar food. I love Madison. Their Farmers Market is the best in the Wisconsin! My sister Kelly and my best friend Missy live there and I think I really love the town more, because of them. I also, wanted to say, throughout the process of MasterChef, I have had a huge following of fans from Johnsons Creek. My sister Heidi and her family live there and I wanted to say thank you for the love you have shown me this year! Your town is truly special and you should be so proud of your town! Plus, I love Pernats of Ixonia meat market which is a really great place to go and support!
Me: When you are out of state, what do you tell people about Wisconsin?
Katrina: I tell them about the people. First, I think we are good people. I think of how friendly we are. I think of how we would give the shirts off of our back if we needed to. I think about how much fun we have in Wisconsin in the winter time. I think that it’s the hidden jewel of the Midwest. I really have a love toward Milwaukee and the people in it. We’re all hard working and I like to focus on that. I believe in Milwaukee it’s a two to three degree separation between people knowing each other. We stick together. Of course I talk about cheese, sausage, Friday night Fish Fry, great microbrews and all the festivals. I was just on a cheese and wine tour on an Art Deco train ride with Elegant Farmer.
We have dairy farmers that work their butts off, all their lives. They have to milk cows 2 times a day and take care of them. I believe, farmers are some of the hardest working individuals. They love the land and respect it, plus their fight to produce goods, with the soil, sun and the elements of Wisconsin, is something to be noted. We don’t live in a state where we can grow crops all year long, we fight through the winters and feel the glory when spring comes. It just makes Wisconsin tougher. I think most people forget about that. That’s how we eat. That’s how we live. That’s what our state was founded on. I am a member of a CSA, Community Support Agriculture, at Pinehold Gardens (http://www.pineholdgardens.com/) we work hard for organic food to feed southeastern Wisconsin. I talk about how beautiful Wisconsin is! We have great parks, beautiful lakes and Lambeau field, the mecca of football!
Me: We are doing a poll about the top 10 Packers of all time. Packers that were not only great players but were/are also great people. Who would you vote for? Excluding current players because their Packer life hasn’t ended yet.
Katrina: Reggie White and Bart Starr.
Me: The final question we have is that when a few people were leaving the show and they were asked who they thought was going to win they said you. How did that make you feel knowing that you had people rooting for you from the show?
Katrina: It made me feel wonderful. It made me feel like they believed in me. They know that I’m a great cook. That I represent everything that Masterchef is. I’m a hard working Midwestern girl who really wants people to get along and who loves to cook. I just gave it my all and they saw that. I never gave up and I fought every day. I was honored and blessed and humbled by Hetal and Olivia picking me and I wanted to do it for them as well as for me and their states.
Unfortunately, for fans of the show and Katrina, Katrina went home in the top 5. This Wednesday (9/16) marks the finale for Masterchef. As much as we wish that Katrina was battling in the finale we as Wisconsinites could not have asked to be represented by a more composed, polite and genuine lady. We want to thank Katrina for taking the time to speak with us. Be sure to visit her website (KatrinaKozar.com) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/KatrinaKozar?fref=ts ) where she shares recipes, has a blog, you can find out more about her mustard, and see pictures of her delicious food.
*Pictures used with permission from Masterchef