Whether facing a hot stove, or a bank of TV cameras, Katie Dixon feels right at home in the kitchen. Any kitchen.
Dixon, a 2005 University of Southern Mississippi graduate, has parlayed her love of cooking into a spot among the Top 17 contestants remaining on the current season of Fox TV’s hit series “MasterChef.” The winner will receive a cookbook deal and the $250,000 grand prize.
A Brookhaven, Miss., native, Dixon earned one of the coveted aprons from renowned chef and MasterChef judge Gordon Ramsey. Christina Tosi serves as the show’s other primary judge with guest judges scheduled to appear throughout the seventh season.
“Cooking is my life. I cook every day at least once,” said Dixon, who makes her home in Hattiesburg with her husband, Todd, and their daughters – Stevee Kate, 10, and Risi, 4. “What a journey from cooking in my grandmother’s farm kitchen to cooking in the MasterChef kitchen. Gordon and Christina both are such amazing chefs and amazing people. It is an absolute honor and a privilege. An opportunity I will always cherish.”
Dixon began her quest to become the next MasterChef champion with an audition in Jackson, Miss. She made organic Alaskan salmon burgers with curried sweet potato fries and a kale salad.
“They loved my dish and I moved on to the next stage of the auditions,” said Dixon. “I went through a lot of interviews and, of course, lots of food talk. After months of cooking and interviews, I finally found out I would be travelling to Los Angeles to compete for a white apron. I couldn’t believe it. My dreams were becoming a reality.”
In the head-to-head competition for a spot among the original Top 20, Dixon squared off against a contestant from Las Vegas. Both were tasked with cooking jambalaya and her traditional southern recipe won the judges’ approval. Two weeks into the current season, Dixon has already survived two elimination rounds that reduced the field to 17 contestants.
Dixon earned her undergraduate degree in business and marketing from Southern Miss. A former Southern Miss cheerleader, she also captured the Mississippi Miss Hospitality crown in 2001. Today she works as a personal trainer, nutritional planner and food creator at Shine Café.
To prepare for her MasterChef audition, Dixon spent many hours in the kitchen working with a variety of cooking experts.
“Preparing for the competition was fun for me, because it’s what I love to do,” she said. “I wanted to see different cooking backgrounds and techniques from women and men of all ages. I wanted to go into the MasterChef kitchen as confident as possible. I am a busy mom, and cook under time pressure every day.”
Dixon says her specialty is Indian food. She enjoys cooking healthy, organic meals that include fresh produce, herbs and spices.
She is vying to become the second Southern Miss alum to win the MasterChef competition. Whitney Miller, who was a Southern Miss senior at the time, captured the inaugural title in 2010.
“I have met precious Whitney Miller. She is such a beautiful person inside and out,” said Dixon. “I loved watching her present her first dish of the competition to Chef Ramsey. Her family was so proud of her, and so was I. I have both of her cookbooks.”
MasterChef can be seen locally at 7 p.m. each Wednesday on WHPM-Fox 23.