American Regional – Midterm Project
February 7, 2011
Catherine “Cat” Cora was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1967. Her heritage is Greek-American. Both her father and her grandfather were restaurateurs in Jackson. She was raised around food and knew from an early age that she wanted to do something in the food field. When she was just 15 years old, she wrote a complete business plan for a restaurant and gave it to her uncle. He reviewed it and was surprised at how accurate it was.
Cat graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition. On advice from her mentor, Julia Child, Cat left Mississippi for New York to attend the Culinary Institute of America. After finishing her training at CIA, Cat went to work for Anne Rozenweig at Arcadia and also for Larry Forgione at the Beekman Tavern. To continue her training, she moved to France to intern for Georges Blanc and Roger Verge; two of France’s three Michelin star chefs. When her internships in France were done, Cat returned to New York to work at The Old Chatham Shepherding Company with Chef Melissa Kelly. After some time, Cat moved west, settling in Northern California. She became the Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Don Giovanni in the Napa Valley, where she once cooked for one of her idols, Jacques Pepin.
Cat has been on many television shows featured by the Food Network, including: Melting Pot; My Country, My Kitchen; Simplify your Life; and Kitchen Accomplished. She is the first and only female “Iron Chef” in the show’s history. She has participated in 33 battles and has a record of 18 wins /14 losses and one draw. Aside from Bobby Flay, Cat has participated in the most battles; even more than Masaharu Morimoto.
Being raised in a Greek family in the South has had a huge impact on Cat’s cooking style. She is known for mixing southern spices with fresh cheese and cured olives sent from the family home in Greece. Her first cookbook, Cat Cora’s Kitchen, was based on these combinations.
In early 2005, Cat founded the non-profit “Chefs for Humanity” with the goal to raise funds and provide resources for important educational and hunger-related causes. Cat was also named a nutritional spokesperson for UNICEF. Last year Cat joined the First Lady, Michelle Obama, as part of her “Chefs Move to Schools” campaign in an effort to provide nutritional guidance and education from professional chefs to schools nationwide. Cat “adopted” an elementary school in her hometown of Santa Barbara, California, as well as the nursery school that her sons attend. She has planted gardens at these locations to help get more nutritional food to the children at these schools.
Cat is a member of Macy’s Culinary Council. She partnered with the store to launch CCQ (Cat Cora’s Que) at their new Signature Kitchen restaurant concept in Southern California’s South Coast Plaza. Inspired by her own barbeque traditions, Cat designed CCQ as a fast casual concept that defines her passion for global BBQ flavors.
Cat is passionate about teaching families healthy eating habits at home. In 2008 she began working with Disney to create the Video On-Demand series “Disney’s What’s Cooking with Cat Cora.” Cat and Disney also opened Kouzzina (Greek for “kitchen”) at Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk Resort in 2009.
Cat is also a member of Chefs for Seals, an informal group of chefs whose passion for seals is designed to raise public awareness about the plight of seals targeted in Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt. Partnering with The Humane Society of the United States, they are dedicated to spreading the word that by boycotting Canadian seafood we can enact change with pressure on the industry that orchestrates the hunt.
Catherine “Cat” Cora proves that a female chef in a male-dominated field can be every bit as successful as a male chef. Her professional achievements equal, if not exceed, that of many of her male counterparts.
I chose Cat Cora for this project because I have a “girl-chef crush” on her and admire her because She has managed to combine family, community interests, and her passion for cooking into an exciting and rewarding life.