Getting to Know The Next Food Network Star finalist Katie Cavuto

Last week, we introduced you to West Chester's own Katie Cavuto, one of the 10 finalists on Season 5 of The Next Food Network Star.

We've since had the opportunity to talk with Katie and interview her about her culinary background as well as her experiences on Season 5 of The Next Food Network Star (The Food Network's show documenting their search for new Food Network personalities and talent) and her wildly successful business, Healthy Bites, based in Philadelphia. It's been a huge pleasure to meet Katie and talk with her about her career!

You may already know Katie. She has been appearing on local television news programs such as Fox, CBS, and NBC for the last 3 1/2 years. Katie's culinary point of view is what she calls "Green Cuisine". She believes strongly in local food that is healthy for both your body and the planet. She thinks a "whole foods" approach to eating is best and feels that processed foods should be eliminated from your home as much as possible.

We asked Katie what type of show she would dream of doing for the Food Network should she win the title of The Next Food Network Star (we're rooting for you, Katie!). Her passion would be to travel around the world teaching people about how foods go from the farm to your table (whether at home or at a restaurant). She'd love to showcase what foods are seasonal and how foods grow. People tend to have a detachment from food and it's sources, and highlighting how easy, delicious, and rewarding it can be to eat locally would be really educational.

Katie grew up right here in West Chester. Her culinary inspiration comes from her 100% Italian family. Her maternal grandparents had a luncheonette and her paternal grandfather was a butcher and had an amazing garden. It was completely organic and he tended to it so meticulously and lovingly. Katie also credits Chef Shawn at the Goose Creek Grill, where she worked for several years, with being a inspiration and mentor to her. She actually credits him with giving her the push to go to culinary school.

Katie's culinary education is extensive. She graduated from Johnson and Wales with a B.S. in Culinary Nutrition. This is a unique program that is not offered widely. Her curriculum focused on healthy eating techniques with emphasis on spa nutrition, sports nutrition, etc. Katie then went on to get a Masters of Clinical Nutrition from Tufts University where she also became a Registered Dietitian.

Katie came back to the area as a Clinical Dietitian at Graduate Hospital. Her Healthy Bites business was born as Graduate Hospital was closing it's doors and Katie decided she wanted to focus on her love for "Green Cuisine" as part of her career. Enter Katie's husband, Andy. Andy is an entrepreneur who helped Katie start her own business almost 2 years ago.

Healthy Bites is Katie's culinary consulting business and she offers a variety of fantastic services. Katie has an organic meal delivery service and is currently delivering more than 100 fresh meals per week. She also does in-home consultations, grocery shopping consults, meal plans, etc. The best part about Healthy Bites is that Katie will personalize services to each unique person/family and tailor her recommendations to your needs.

During our interview, Katie answered some of our reader questions for us. Here are the questions we wanted to know and Katie's responses:

1. In these economic times, what is your best advice for using healthy and organic ingredients that are still affordable?

Katie's biggest advice, especially in this season, is to have a backyard garden. A $1.00 seed packet can yield an abundance of food for you and your family. You can garden even if you have very little space. Many foods will grow well even in small container gardens.

Katie also believes that eating seasonally will keep your costs down. She uses the example of buying raspberries in the winter..... If you buy raspberries in the winter, they are going to be sold to you at a premium because they are not in season here and would have had to been shipped from long distances (also not good for the planet) just to reach your market.

Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or frequenting your local farmer's market are Katie's suggestions for buying high quality foods at reasonable prices. Often, you can find produce for the same or less than grocery stores in these venues.

2. Andrea wants to know your best advice to Moms that want nutritious, organic meals for small children that they will actually eat?

Katie suggests making your own baby food. It's really important that baby food is pesticide and chemical free and packaged organic food can be really expensive. It's really simple to make your own baby food. Just steam the fruits and vegetables and then freeze in individual portions in an ice cube tray. When you make your own food, you can introduce kids to unique ingredients and combinations such as beets and pears or apples.

3. Shannon wants to know what your favorite vegetarian meal is?

Katie's favorite vegetarian meal changes all the time with the seasons. Right now, she is really enjoying a salad with Rainbow Chard. Use Rainbow Chard (you can mix in some romaine too) and add walnuts, carrots, baked tofu and beans topped with a soy ginger vinaigrette. Katie likes to use edamame in her salad or you can mix 1/2 beans and 1/2 edamame.

We had a great time talking to Katie and could have talked to her all afternoon! Be on the look out for our next post discussing our time at Katie's viewing party for the Season Premiere of The Next Food Network Star on Sunday. We had so much fun. Also, we have a great Food Network giveaway to share with you all as well as a delicious recipe from Katie, so stay tuned!

Make sure to tune in each Sunday night at 9pm to the Food Network to watch Katie on The Next Food Network Star!