Walking into the highly esteemed MasterChef kitchen for the first time, seeing every ingredient she would ever need, is a moment that recent Millersville University graduate Bri Kozior will always remember. Acquiring a taste for cooking her own meals (for her vegetarian appetite), she decided to apply to audition for the televised cooking competition, which aired on Fox television network from May 22 to Sept. 11. Kozior moved to Los Angeles shortly after she graduated in May. She auditioned for the show, hoping to pursue her dreams of opening a burlesque club one day, an ambition she said came from her major in theatre at MU. “It’s everything I love, the burlesque idea, it’s nightlife, good food and company, and intimate environment, glitter and a show…it’s my dream that’s about to become a reality.”
Coming in sixth place on MasterChef has catapulted Kozier into the spotlight, opening more doors than she could have ever imagined. She now has her own business called Hashtag Kitchen and she partnered with the MasterChef season 4 winner himself, Luca Manfe on another endeavor. Together they are starting to cater for businesses and combining their exceptional talents.
This was not an easy road for Kozior, having to compete against other homecooks older than she is. “I was mostly worried about the fact that I was a kid just out of college going up against people who were 6-14 years older than me and had so much more experience than I did,” explained Kozior. “My apartment in Lancaster didn’t really have any appliances in it so I was most nervous that I wouldn’t know how to use all of the equipment they gave us!”
With such little time to prepare restaurant quality food, Kozior had to use her gut instincts to come up with creative dishes to impress the judges, award-winning chef Gordon Ramsey, restaurateur Joe Bastianich and highly praised Chef Graham Elliot. “It really is a natural instinct,” said Kozior. “You spend so much time in the kitchen and during filming, you’ve got nothing but food on the mind; you’re already in that mindset.”
However, outside of the MasterChef kitchen, there is a different situation completely for contestants on the show. They do not live in one big house together or become super-close roommates. “We were all housed in one hotel in the beginning and then two separate hotels after that,” said Kozior. All technological devices were taken away from them right off the bat, and they were allowed one ten-minute phone call home once a week. Bodyguards were assigned to each contestant. “[They] take you everywhere and keep track of where you are in the hotel and hold your room key to let you back in,” said Kozior. “You can’t ever leave the hotel except maybe once a week after filming one day when they can take you all to the grocery store or out to eat a few hours.”
Kozior’s story almost ended earlier than she had hoped. She was eliminated on July 24 and got the chance to return on Aug. 7 competing against two other eliminated contestants Lynn Chyi and Albaya “Bime” Cruz. Each judge had given one contestant a chance to return to compete for the title of MasterChef.
Kozior was Ramsey’s choice, Chyi was Bastianich’s choice and Elliot chose Cruz. The ironic part was Kozior was still in Los Angeles for press engagements for the show. Her family had been flown to the city for an episode of MasterChef that she did not get to appear in due to her elimination at the time. She showed up on set with the two other contestants and was told this instead: “you’re fighting your way back onto the show today. There’s no press shoot.”
During her time on the show Kozior once butted heads with another homecook who was known for her attitude, Krissi Biasiello. After a stressful team challenge they had lost, the team members had lashed out at one another. “My fight with Krissi on screen was really just me being fed up with her attitude and having to deal with it every day for seven weeks at that point,” explained Kozior. And believe it or not, the arguments on MasterChef between contestants were never scripted. “It is ALL real. Reality TV will put you into situations that can cause stuff to happen, but it is not scripted.” The two homecooks have since made amends after Biasiello apologized and according to Kozior, they are now friends.
All in all, Kozior got the full reality show experience. After the show she got a job as head pastry chef in LA, however, she now resides in New York working with the MasterChef himself and growing her own business. “My business, Hashtag Kitchen, has really blown up which is amazing.
I never expected so many people to want to just meet me, or eat my food,” said Kozior. “I absolutely love it and I really just want to keep booking events and getting things to run smoothly in a business sense. I still have a lot to learn but so far, it’s been great.” Her dream of opening a burlesque club someday may not be too far away.