Cat Cora, Chic Chef

Successful, smart, pretty, AND a good cook: Cat Cora is a quadruple threat.

Successful, smart, gorgeous, AND a good cook: Cat Cora is a quadruple threat.

Food Network junkies already know Cat Cora. For the rest of us (despite my addiction to all things food, I haven’t watched a cooking show since canning cable a few years back), let’s look more closely at Miss Catherine Ann “Cat” Cora.

Cora made history in 2005 as the first female to win the title of Iron Chef America. But her hard work in the culinary field started long before that.

Born in 1967 in Jackson, Mississippi, Cora was introduced to the food world as daughter and granddaughter of restauranteurs. Her father Sprio’s Greek heritage and her own southern roots are reflected in much of what Cora does in the kitchen even today.

A decision to enroll at Culinary Institute of America came only after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and Biology at the University of Southern Mississippi. Her television debut came later (1999) with Food Network’s Melting Pot. In 2004, she co-hosted Food Network’s reality show, Kitchen Accomplished. That next year was especially busy: Besides her Iron Chef win, Cora co-founded Chefs For Humanity, “a grassroots coalition of chefs and culinary professionals guided by a mission to quickly be able to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency and humanitarian aid, nutritional education, and hunger-related initiatives out in the world.”

She continued to balance her food persona with that of humanitarian when named Executive Chef at Bon Appetit magazine as well as spokesperson for UNICEF in 2006. In 2008, she ventured into gaming territory by voicing a role for the video game Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine. (That there is such a thing blows my mind.)

Inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012, Cora has an amazing resume of which we’ve hardly touched on. It would take far too long to go over it all, so let me instead send you here for her restaurants and here for cooking shows. As well, she has a cookware line, cookbooks, and specialty ingredients, all found on her website.

Personal note: My family was lucky enough to enjoy a meal at Cora’s Kouzzina on Disney’s Boardwalk in Orlando, Florida. There, my oldest daughter enjoyed her first Greek lasagna and I had a cocktail I’ll never forget. The Smoked Turkey blended whiskey (Wild Turkey, of course), black cherry bourbon, grenadine, lemonade, hickory smoke (just a hint), and a garnish of Luxardo gourmet maraschino cherries. It was amazing. Sadly, Kouzzina–Greek for “kitchen”–will close its doors on September 30.

Unable to leave my food blogginess behind, I'll add a big ol' photo of our food at Kouzzina.

Unable to leave my food blogginess behind, I’ll add a big ol’ photo of our food at Kouzzina.

Busy professionally, Cora is also busy at home with her four kiddos:Β Zoran, Caje, Thatcher, and Nash–each a contender for future BoFN posts. While parenting is never straightforward or easy, Cora and her wife went the extra mile by each carrying at least one of their babies. Which underscores a quote attributed to her at BrainyQuotes.com:

Even when you have doubts, take that step. Take chances. Mistakes are never a failure – they can be turned into wisdom.

Through her work as a chef, restauranteur, culinary entrepreneur, television personality, humanitarian, mom, and wife, Cora has repeatedly been willing to take huge risks. And without these risks, the culinary world would be that much poorer. Go, Cat Go!

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About Liz

Owner of deLizious Food Communications. Projects include recipe development, editing, and formatting; food writing and editing; nutrition analysis; public speaking and cooking instruction. Past and present clients: General Mills, Green Giant Fresh, Hormel, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Pork Producers, Norwood Promotional Products, Pillsbury, Tad Ware, and Weight Watchers Publishing. Mother of two young girls.
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26 Responses to Cat Cora, Chic Chef

  1. ksbeth says:

    i love the name, it seems to suit her perfectly, and bravo to cat and her wife for all they’ve done for their family and for her quote. is the greek lasagna also called mousska? we have that here and i’ve always thought of it as greek lasagna, it is delicious. lucky you had a chance to go there before it closed and great post.

  2. kerbey says:

    Obviously Nash lucked out with the best kid name. We watched a lot of “Iron Chef” with Cat Cora over the years. Definitely a Southern girl, but I had forgotten Catherine Ann had some Greek in her as well. Wonder why the kitchen is closing? Seriously–Zoran? I think that’s the name of the fortune teller in “Big.” Oh, wait–that’s Zoltar.

    • Dave says:

      Zoran is a great name! Don’t forget there’s also “Zoltan” – back in the day, Arto and I were taught a “beverage” game called Zoltan, developed by a French student, where one of the things was that you had to make the Zoltan hand signal, which I guess comes from the movie “Dude Where’s My Car?”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoltan_%28hand_gesture%29

      I love learning weird things like this. Maybe I’ll have to watch the movie!

    • Liz says:

      What about not messing with the Zohan?

      My guess about the closing is that it wasn’t kitschy or touristy enough. The food was high-caliber, but the Disney crowd mostly wants greasy burgers and fries and such. Not saying it was too high end so much as the food was too well prepared, etc. Not what’s expected or maybe even wanted at Disney. It was by far my fave meal of the trip.

  3. Dave says:

    Amazing credentials! I’m always impressed when someone can find a way to rise to the top of their field. Top of her field, motivational quotes, exercise physiology degree, UNICEF spokesperson and voiceover artist! This lady is darn impressive!

    Speaking of impressive: you and my Facebook friend Matt are the two people whose food photos I’ll always enjoy! It’s a talent of yours!

    • Dave says:

      I’m also a bit bummed that Kouzzina will soon be closing its doors before I get to eat there. There are some places that I just wish could stick around!

    • Liz says:

      you’ll have to introduce me to Matt! She’s a pretty cool lady. She seems a real person in the way that some cooking celebrities do not. The Martha Stewarts of this world do not interest me.

      Thanks for your astute comments, Big D πŸ˜€

  4. Liz-I love that you took photos of your meal at Kouzzina. Since it’s not likely any of us will get to Florida before it closes. Love the quote. Words to live by.

    • Liz says:

      Thought you’d enjoy the quote, Fannie. I can only guess that it’s something she said, though the source is BrainyQuote and of course you can’t believe everything you read online. But it sounds like something she’d say!

  5. Liz says:

    Reblogged this on food for fun and commented:

    Welcome to a food for fun first! Today, instead of writing original content–always my goal here–I’m reblogging this week’s Blog of Funny Names guest post. The fuunily-named subject has fun with food, so she qualifies here for sure. Meow πŸ™‚

  6. HotDish says:

    I don’t watch TV either, so would never have heard of her if it weren’t for you. She sounds like an axing cook and I wish I could have tried that cocktail AND the Greek lasagna before she closed her doors.
    Zoran is an unusual name. My sister ex-husband is Serbian, and that is the name of one of his cousins. I wonder if it is a Greek name as well?

    • Liz says:

      That cocktail was something else, but I know you have your share of amazing restaurants and cocktail spots on your end πŸ™‚ Cool thoughts on the names. Serbian, huh?

      Will be in touch sooner rather than later as our trip is on πŸ˜€ My dad got a clean bill of health, so we’re ready to roll. Hoping you’ll still be available? We may not find a Smoked Turkey, but there should be something worth drinking somewhere!

  7. MamaD1xx4xy says:

    We all enjoy Cat too! Especially her southern roots, Ewan goes nuts over grits when she makes them. Saw her on prime time network last night too. She is such a well rounded wonderful person from everything I’ve read. Your are making me hungry already, I am craving Greek food now!

  8. amb says:

    Hi Liz! Great post! I don’t watch Iron Chef often (I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with amb?!?) but I’ve read magazine profiles of Cat and her family (thanks Oprah!) and she seems lovely. Much like yourself πŸ˜‰

    • Liz says:

      Thank ya’, ma’am. I’ve never seen Iron Chef either. Would love to read profiles of her family. Such a cool and brave way to live life.

      Appreciate the compliment. I’m no Cat Cora, but I do try to have fun. Though sometimes staying sane is all I can manage haha.

  9. cheri says:

    Great post, did not know all this about Cat Cora, have always admired her.

    • Liz says:

      Thank you, Cheri. You’ve captured exactly the reason I enjoy writing here–gives me a chance to learn more about someone I admire. Cat is definitely a rock star πŸ™‚

  10. I love Cat Cora. She’s such an inspiration!

  11. Pingback: Maru, The Cat | The Blog of Funny Names

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