During the final round of the FTD America’s Cup design competition last week, Katharina Stuart, AIFD, CCF, had reality TV on her mind — namely the fast-paced cooking contest “Chopped.”
“I kept thinking of ‘Chopped,’ which is a show that I like, and how the contestants transform their basket of ingredients,” said Stuart, of Lee’s Florist & Nursery in Berkeley, California. “In our final challenge, we were given a crate to work with, and I started to take mine apart to turn it into a different kind of vessel — then, I just kept working from there.”
Stuart’s ingenuity paid off in a big way when she was named the winner of the contest, which was held during the American Institute of Floral Designers’ Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C. Rounding out the Top Four finalists were Derek Woodruff, AIFD, PFCI, CF, Laura Daluga, AIFD, and Samantha Bates, AIFD.
The win means that Stuart will represent the United States next year during the FTD World Cup competition at the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show in March. It’s the first time since 1985 that the World Cup competition will be in the United States. Thirty countries are expected to be represented at the event; the winner will be named the Interflora World Cup Champion.
“The excitement and energy throughout the entire AIFD Symposium for our winner and the upcoming FTD World Cup was inspiring,” said Emily Bucholz, director of marketing, communications and events at FTD. “I truly believe hosting this event in the U.S. will bring the entire floral community together. It is a great opportunity for everyone to see the top floral designers from around the world on one stage in Philadelphia.”
For Stuart, the win also was a culmination of a lifetime spent loving flowers and floral design. A native of Switzerland, Stuart grew up “surrounded by flowers and plants.” Her grandmother and mother, both avid gardeners, instilled an appreciation for beauty in Stuart, who completed an apprenticeship in floral design in Switzerland before moving to the United States. For the past 20 years, she’s lived in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
“Coming to the USA as an immigrant was not easy, leaving what I loved behind to start in a new place from scratch with a new family, new language, new people, et cetera,” she said. “But…this is the land of opportunities. I am so proud be representing the USA on the world stage.”
The most challenging part of the competition last week? The pressure cooker of a live contest, with so many eyes watching her every move, Stuart confessed.
“There were so many people watching us — hundreds at a time, taking pictures,” she said. “That was the most intimidating part. I was somehow able to block that out and find my focus. Among all of the contestants there, the skill level was very high, so I really had to work hard to find ways to stand apart.”
Follow the news for FTD’s World Cup.