POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) — A Poland native is competing on a cooking reality show on our sister station, Fox Youngstown.
Kira Novak, 31, of Chicago, has made if through the first two episodes of Season 5 of “MasterChef.” She said she learned how to cook from her Italian grandmother and despite being away from the Youngstown area for the past 10 years, she is proud of her Valley roots.
Novak auditioned for the show in Chicago, but no one else made it on the show. She said her mother is a huge fan of the show and encouraged Novak to audition, which she did in November.
The shows was taped from January to March in Los Angeles. The top 100 contestants after the audition went to Los Angeles, where they underwent interviews, cooking and a producer taste test. The top 30 contestants then got aprons, which meant they were on the show.
The field was narrowed to 22 contestants after the May 26 premiere and Novak said she does not know what happens on the show until it airs. She did make it through the June 2 episode.
Novak said the judges taste everything and watch as the dishes are prepared. She said they also offer tips, noting chef Gordon Ramsay is very nice and not at all like what is portrayed on “Hell’s Kitchen.”
She said the reality of what happens behind the scenes is different than what is aired on television.
“It’s weird being on camera for reality TV because it’s not scripted, it’s not acted. So then it’s real reactions to real situations but, I mean, they edit it to make it exciting,” Novak said. “Reality TV is basically a huge amped-up version of yourself.”
She said she is excited to watch the show every week and said she thinks she will be portrayed as the “fun one” among the contestants.
She said her grandmother, who is from Sicily, has taught her a lot about cooking because they used to cook together on Sundays. And even though a lot of her dishes are inspired by Sicily, she did not make an Italian dish for her signature dish.
Instead, she opted to prepare an herb-goat-cheese crusted filet with a roasted red pepper habanero sauce and a garlic cauliflower puree.
“I really wanted to prove that Youngstown is a fabulous place to be from. There’s a lot of great people that come out of there and I’m proud to be one of them. And I just want to show people what I can do. You know, I want people to be proud of me, I want people to be like, yeah, that’s Kira from Poland. She did a great job on MasterChef. So I really do hope people root for me and I have a lot of friends and my whole family is still there,” Novak said.
In addition to her day job as a medical recruitment, clinical and project recruiter for a physical therapy company, she also is giving cooking lessons and is a personal chef. Winning the competition would open a lot of doors for her.
She said she has a great family to back her up.
“They’re very loud Italian people and Czech and they know what good food is and they taught me that, really at a young age. And I believe that’s what molded me into being on MasterChef and that’s a big part of who I am and Youngstown is a huge part of who I am. And I hope that that will show in the show. I hope people realize that and are like, you know what, Youngstown’s pretty bad-ass!,” Novak said.
She said she is in the competition to win it.
“There’s $250,000 on the table here, your own cookbook, a trophy, bragging rights and I want to put myself on the map for something that’s good. Cooking is a good thing. It’s a positive thing. And I want to show, especially young women, that it’s okay to cook. You know, our generation should be able to cook, not order out all the time. I want to show people that you can cook healthy and that’s a really big part of what I do as well,” she said.
Novak said reality TV is one of the best things that has ever happened to her because she has met some great people that she would not have met otherwise.
“And I love them with all my heart and I’m so happy to have met them. Win or lose, you’ve already won. So I think that that’s a big part that nobody gets to see that everyone should know about,” Novak said.
She said the competition made her realize how hard she can push herself.
“When I’m in one of the challenges, I really thought, I was shaving cabbage on a mandolin, and I really thought you know what, I can’t do this. My arms were burning. It was like a hundred degrees outside and we’re wearing combat outfits. And I’m really sweating. And, you know, I took it to the next level with myself and I’ve never been so proud and I just couldn’t believe it. And that’s what it pushes you to do. It makes you work hard, it makes you believe in yourself. And it makes you believe in your teammates as well,” Novak said.
MasterChef airs at 8 p.m. every Monday on Fox Youngstown.