Kristina was listed as one of the “20 Sous-Chefs to Watch in Philly” by Zagat. She showed off her skills on “Chopped,” snagging $10,000 as the winner of the “Wonton Wonder” episode. She was later invited to return to the show and advanced to the “Champs Challenge” finale. Today, Kristina is creating culinary masterpieces at Ripplewood Whiskey & Craft, in Ardmore, listed among the 25 best new restaurants in Philadelphia’s western suburbs by Main Line Today.
- Baking & Culinary
Shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s in Culinary Arts & Systems, Kristina moved to the Philadelphia area, hoping to make a name for herself in the culinary scene. And that’s exactly what she did. Her talents were quickly realized and earned her positions with the city’s hottest restaurants. She also cooked her way to the top on Food Network’s popular competitive cooking show “Chopped.”
Q&A with Kristina
WHEN DID YOU FIRST FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR CAREER FIELD AND WHY?
I can remember spending a lot of time in my great grandmother's kitchen. There’s a picture of me standing on a chair next to her peeling horseradish and peeling potatoes. Since then, I always cooked with my grandmother and my mom and my dad. And it's really nice, especially with family holidays. They’re the best. I like waking up early. My dad and I get into the kitchen right away on Thanksgiving and start making stuff. I've always eaten everything since I was little. My dad had me try new things. He’d say, “What's the worst that's going to happen? You're not going to like it. You're not going to die. You'll be fine.”
WHEN DID YOU KNOW A CAREER IN CULINARY WAS YOUR CALLING?
I think I made the choice when I was a teenager. I remember waking up in the mornings and watching TV with my dad. We would watch the Food Network. He bought me a cookbook, and it would be Mother's Day, Father's Day, one of our birthdays, or something like that. I would just make a dinner out of the cookbook and try new things all the time. So it was a lot of fun. And then I gradually started getting jobs. For instance, I had a job at Panera Bread. I had a job at a local restaurant called Morgan's and then Henry's Salt of the Sea. I fell in love with it. I knew this is definitely what I want to do.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THIS FIELD?
I think what really attracted me to coming to this field is just the hustle and bustle of it all. It's crazy. It really is. It's a lot of fun, though. There's never a dull moment. Even on a slow day, there's always stuff. You're working on recipes. You're making new things. You're cleaning the kitchen. One thing that we really pride ourselves on is that we have a really clean kitchen. But that's because we all don't leave for the night until everyone's done. We all do it together. And that, to me, is a big thing. Even though I work a lot, I still have a family at work, because we all see each other all the time. We get along really, really great. And that's the nice thing about it too, is the team dynamic that you have.
WHY PENN COLLEGE?
Penn College was everything that I wanted. There were small class sizes. It was hands-on and the facility is beautiful. So it hit every bullet point that I wanted in a college. And it also just fit in with our financial budget. It was only two hours away from home, far enough that I didn't have to go home, but close enough that I could if I wanted to.
HOW DID THE MIX OF PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE PLUS THEORY HELP YOU?
For me, the theory-based education was a lot of fun. I'm super into history and just learning the reasons why you do things the way you do them. So that, for me, was a huge thing, because we would talk about why you sharpen your knife, why you break down a chicken the way you break down a chicken, or why the chefs in the past did what they did to get to where we are today in this culinary industry. And having that and then getting to go to class in the kitchen the next day and utilize that information, it kept everything fresh in your mind.
WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU ABOUT THE FACULTY?
The faculty legitimately care. I have never felt so at home away from home. When I was there, I actually almost left my second week. I hated it. I was like, I hate this, I want to go home, I miss my family. I had never been away from home at that point for more than a week or so for vacation. And I remember going to Chef Mike, actually, because he was my advisor at the time. I was like, "I can't do this anymore. I'm leaving." And he was like, "Listen, kid. Stick it out for the semester." And I'm glad I did!
“All of the classes taught us new things and kept us on our toes. I loved that our labs were like real-life working shifts, because this job is no joke! I also loved how small our classes were, because I made some of my best friends in college.”
Photo courtesy of Food Network
Baking & Culinary
Whether you dream of opening a restaurant or baking your way to success, we have a program to support your greatest ambitions.
Unsure which major is right for you? See all academic programs at-a-glance.