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A Conversation with Cat Cora: Iron Chef, Restaurateur, Entrepreneur, Mom

Her new cookware line now featured in The Food Channel Store

Chef, restaurateur, humanitarian and TV personality Cat Cora is probably best known today as the first and only female Iron Chef in the history of the TV series franchise—including the Japanese version of the show.

She’s even made a literary contribution to the language of food, coining the word “Hellasian,” which refers to a fusion cuisine that combines Greek and Asian cooking.

Later this year Cat will premiere her brand new cooking show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah’s new 24/7 cable network devoted to self-discovery. Details on that program are being kept under wraps for now, so stay tuned.

The Food Channel had a chance to visit with the celebrity chef for a quick interview.

How does it feel to still be the only female on Iron Chef?

I’m so proud to still be able to represent women as the first and still only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, but at the same time, I would welcome another female chef to join the team with me. 

What’s the latest on Chefs for Humanity? Anything new going on with that group?      

My non-profit organization, Chefs for Humanity, is still working to reduce hunger worldwide and promote nutrition education. We just made a big donation with funds raised through our Haiti fundraising efforts to the Safe Stoves Initiative in Haiti with the World Food Programme, which is one of our many partners, and continue to partner up with other organizations to continue to help in as widespread of a way as we can. Anyone who wants to get involved can visit www.chefsforhumanity.org or www.catcora.com.

What’s new with your restaurants?

I just opened my third restaurant, Cat Cora’s Kitchen at the new Terminal 2 at SFO in San Francisco, and we have plans to open 6 more airport restaurants in the next year. Kouzzina by Cat Cora at the Boardwalk Resort at Walt Disney World is still one of the top restaurants there, and my global BBQ joint, Cat Cora’s ’Que (CCQ) in Costa Mesa, California, is still doing great. I’m very proud of all of them, and excited for the next ones to open!

 How does your cooking style differ when you’re cooking for your family at home vs. in a restaurant?    

As with most professional chefs, when I’m cooking at home for my family, we tend to crave simple, rustic foods with little fuss.  Just fulfilling, delicious dishes like and herb & lemon-roasted chicken, grilled lamb with roasted vegetables, and so on. I’m also a busy mom of 4 boys so one-pot meals or meals that can be done ahead of time, such as slow-cooked dishes that basically prepare themselves while I’m away during the day, are wonderful.  I created my Cook n’ Serve for the other families out there who want to have a home-cooked meal but want it on the table as quickly as possible. It’s literally from the oven to the table with the insulated bamboo protection of my Quick N’ Serve casserole dishes.  

How involved were you in the design of the products in your Cat Cora by Starfrit line of cookware?

I was very involved in the design of each of the products in the Cat Cora by Starfrit cookware line. I didn’t want to sacrifice quality and created these for the modern/busy parent but up to the standards of the professional cook as well. The motto “Professional Chef Tested; Modern Mom Approved” is very accurate and exactly how we created the entire line from the embossed wooden serving spoons, to the hard anodized pans, and I’m so glad how great it all turned out and am very proud of it. We've also introduced Cat Cora's Kitchen by Gaea, a line of specialty foods including a full range of Greek oils, tapenades, vinegar, and sauces that we're excited about. Proceeds from these products support Chefs For Humanity in the fight against hunger.

The Cat Cora by Starfrit line of cookware is now on sale at The Food Channel Store.