On and off-screen, Chef Cat Cora (www.catcoracooks.com) continues to make a lasting impression on the culinary community. Her food aspirations began at an early age, and by 15, she developed a business plan for her own restaurant. In 2005, she made television history on Food Network's Iron Chef America as the first and only female Iron Chef, and in 2006 Bon Appetit Magazine named her Executive Chef and bestowed her with their Teacher of the Year Award. From partnering with Macy’s for a new restaurant concept that premiered in December 2008 to her first stand alone restaurant that opened at Walt Disney World BoardWalk Resort in September 2009, Cat’s bringing a taste of her culinary influence to both coasts.
Cat’s upbringing in Jackson, Mississippi’s intimate Greek community had an incalculable influence on her career. Raised by a family for whom cooking and eating were the center of life, meals at the Cora house often combined spices from the South with fresh cheeses and home-cured olives sent by relatives from the island of Skopelos. Her first cookbook, Cat Cora’s Kitchen was inspired by her Greek and Southern heritage and contains many of her family’s favorite recipes.
In her second book, Cooking From The Hip: Fast, Easy, Phenomenal Meals (Houghton Mifflin), Cat elevates at-home cooking to new levels, applying her “go-with-what-you’ve got” philosophy to creating simple, yet sensational meals. She’ll showcase her take on worldly recipes in her third book, Classics With a Twist, due out in Spring 2010.
A member of Macy’s Culinary Council, Cat partnered with the department store to launch CCQ (Cat Cora’s Que) at their new Signature Kitchen restaurant concept in California’s South Coast Plaza location. Inspired by her own unique barbeque traditions, Cat designed CCQ as a fast casual concept that defines her passion for global BBQ flavors.
Passionate about teaching families healthy eating habits at home, Cat began working with Disney in 2008, where she created a Disney Video on Demand series, “Disney’s What’s Cooking with Cat Cora.” Mutually committed to encouraging good family eating, Cat and Disney opened Kouzzina (Greek for “kitchen”) at Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk Resort in September 2009. Kouzzina offers a menu of Mediterranean-style cuisine that pays tribute to Cat’s Greek heritage.
COOKING FOR A CAUSE
Outside of the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy. She is President and Founder of Chefs for Humanity (www.chefsforhumanity.org), an organization that originated in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. Modeled after Doctors Without Borders, the not-for-profit gathers the culinary community together to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency, educational and hunger-related causes. Recognizing Cat’s altruistic determination in the food world, UNICEF named her a nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.
PATH TO SUCCESS
With advice from of her famous mentor Julia Child, Cat left Mississippi for New York, where she received the education of her dreams at The Culinary Institute of America. While in New York, she apprenticed with and then worked for Chef Anne Rozenweig at Arcadia and worked at the Beekman Tavern under Chef Larry Forgione of An American Place. Cat’s culinary education continued in Europe completing apprenticeships with two of France's three-star Michelin chefs, George Blanc of Vonnas and Roger Verge. After returning to New York again, Cat honed her skills as a Sous Chef at The Old Chatham Shepherding Company under Chef Melissa Kelly. She soon headed West to plant her roots in Northern California, where she served as Chef de Cuisine at Napa Valley's Bistro Don Giovanni.
Cat made her TV debut in 1999, as co-host of Food Network’s, Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito. She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate, and was one of the featured hosts on Fine Living’s Simplify Your Life. A documentary, Cat’s In The Kitchen, was also made about her first James Beard dinner in April, 2002.
Preceding Iron Chef America, Cat co-hosted Kitchen Accomplished on Food Network, where she worked with a design expert and contractor to surprise a homeowner with a 3-day kitchen makeover. In 2006, Cat appeared in NBC’s Primetime Miniseries, Celebrity Cooking Showdown, where celebrities were paired with famous chefs and competed in a timed cook-off à la Iron Chef.
Cat resides in the Santa Barbara area with her family, including her biggest fans, her four sons.
Follow Cat on Twitter (@catcora) and Facebook.