When OWN debuted earlier this year, we were instantly sucked into the competition series Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star. And in true Oprah Winfrey style, they surprised us by announcing not one but two winners — Kristina Kuzmic and Zach Anner. Kuzmic is a working mom with a passion for cooking and her new series, The Ambush Cook, debuted recently. In an exclusive interview she told us about the gifts that Oprah has given her and her relationship with Zach.

Kristina reflected on her time on Your Own Show, telling us that the highlight of the entire experience was simply “having time with Oprah.” She recounted an exciting, but intimidating interview that Op did with each finalist before the winning decisions were made. “We didn’t know she was coming. So it wasn’t like I could mentally prepare myself. I remember thinking, ‘Don’t cry,’ because I was so emotional through that whole process, it was such a big deal for me to make it to the top ten. So I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Try and form sentences like a normal person.’”

And yet she said that Winfrey could not have made her feel more at ease. She recalled, “The thing with Oprah that’s so incredible, and this is why everybody adores her, is that she really makes you feel comfortable. She doesn’t have this ego or anything.”

In fact she marks her time with Winfrey as the highlight of the entire experience. She confessed, “I came from nothing and really, just like a lot of us, struggled with self-esteem and ‘am I worth my dreams’ and all of a sudden I find myself sitting across from this incredible woman and she is making me feel worth her time and she’s really interested in what I have to say. And it was just really powerful.”

But it was a behind-the-scenes moment with Oprah that had the greatest impact on Kristina. She revealed, “One of the most powerful, powerful moments I had with her didn’t even happen on camera. After I won she came out of her trailer to say goodbye to me. And I looked at her, I think I had tears in my eyes, and I said, ‘I just want you to know that I am going to work my butt off and I will make you proud.’ And the way I grew up, whenever I would say stuff like that to anyone, I would get the, ‘Okay, you better’ — almost like a doubt in people’s minds. And she looked at me with this complete calmness and just went, ‘I know.’… It was just such a simple little moment but it was amazing. I will never forget it.”

The impact was, no doubt, heightened by the fact that Kristina never expected to be a Your Own Show winner. She divulged, “The night before they announced the winner, I journaled, ‘I am so happy with second place.’ Because I just assumed Zach would win. I think so highly of him and he’s so incredible. So for me to win, when I really, really honestly genuinely didn’t expect it, it was incredible.”

And sharing the victory with Anner only made it sweeter. She acknowledged that the best part was “knowing that… me winning didn’t mean that Zach didn’t. We’d just become so close and I’ve often said he’s more than a friend, He’s like a brother to me. So to have this incredible thing happen and to have it happen to this person that I love so much at the same time, just made it so much better than if I had won alone.”

The two new stars have stayed in touch as they both were filming their shows. Kristina remarked, “We talk on the phone at least every two days. And every time he’s in L.A. he always comes over and we get together. But we’re on the phone a lot. It’s been great to have someone. We have this similar story. We went from nothing to all of a sudden, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re working for the Oprah Winfrey Network.’ So it’s been nice to share those crazy emotions with each other.”

Catch The Ambush Cook on Saturdays at 12 p.m. EST/11 a.m. Central on OWN.