9 Questions with Katie Dixon, New Food Network Star Finalist

We caught up with Katie about her style in the kitchen and out.

Contestant Katie Dixon, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 14.

Photo by: Smallz & Raskind

Smallz & Raskind

Food Network Star is bringing the heat in the Season 14 premiere, with the first-of-its-kind episode in Florida. But before the fun in the sun — and some inevitable drama — begins on June 10, we’ve got the first interviews with all the hopefuls. Read on below to get to know them.

Katie, 35, is constantly impressing people with her bubbly personality and her recipes that are bursting with flavor. Growing up working on her grandparent’s farm, Katie cultivated her love for cooking and creating tasty dishes in the kitchen with her family. Currently a private chef and the owner of a café, Katie’s Southern style with an international twist is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. In between it all, Katie is always hard at work thinking up new meals for friends and family back at home.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.
Southern-rooted with a healthy international spin.

What made you fall in love with food?
The smiles of people who ate my grandmother’s food. I grew up going to my grandparents’ farm every weekend, and to me, food was family and smiles and laughter and story telling.

What technical kitchen skill are you best at?
Most people absolutely die over my curries, so I’d say putting international flair on things. Not being afraid to ask questions has led me to learn new things.

What's your signature dish?
It’s a duo of braised and roasted beef over a sweet potato grit. It has orange zest to enhance the fennel that’s in the dish. It’s a traditional spin on what people think of Southern food, which is meat and potatoes. But it’s elevated.

What do you say to people who think they can't learn how to cook?
I would say we’re going to find something you love to eat and you’re going to love to make it. Finding out the need of your customers is huge, so finding out what they enjoy in life and playing off of that and putting that into the kitchen – maybe the experience they had at a restaurant – and bringing that memory back gets them excited about being in the kitchen.

Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What's for dinner?
Probably my kids’ favorite, which is a healthy chicken and waffles. I’m a busy mom. I have a restaurant, I have two children who are in five different activities. So, between getting my workouts in, doing nutritional planning for people, getting kids to and from school, being full-time at the cafe, usually dinner is something easy but also something they love that’s healthy.

Who's your food/chef spirit animal?
Most definitely the Barefoot Contessa. I love her. She loves what she does. She’s so happy and it’s so genuine. And she loves people, she loves what food is able to do for her with people; it builds a relationship. She tells stories. And I see myself as her. We have completely different cooking styles. She does love her local stores, and her happiness and zeal for life in general and eagerness to do anything and try anything are very similar to mine.

What's something very few people know about you?
Probably that I played college basketball. I’m barely 5’4 on a good day. That and I’m real adventurous with sports. You wouldn’t thinking coming from Mississippi that I mountain bike and surf and paddleboard. I’m super outdoorsy and adventurous.

Food pics in restaurants: yay or nay. Why?
It’s that Catch 22 to me. I want to enjoy the experience, but at the same time, with social media the way it is today, a lot of restaurants get recognized because someone shared something they had. I know that at my cafe — a healthy little cafe in Mississippi, which is rare — I probably sell 200 acai bowls a week, because people are posting pictures of it and people ask, “What is that?” We’re not in a place where that’s super prevalent, so without getting that picture out there, people wouldn’t know. I’m always proud of what I make, so I always take it as a compliment that someone wants to photograph food. Where I struggle is if I’m at a really nice restaurant, I hate to bring the phone or camera out to the table, because I want to enjoy the experience.

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