Lesbian Reality Televison Q&A Round up

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What's Cooking With Iron Chef Cat Cora?

Written by: Colleen M. Lee

On camera, Cat Cora is a Tasmanian devil, dicing and slicing while directing a cabal of sous chefs on Iron Chef America. The ouzo-slamming Greek girl from Mississippi is the founder of Chefs for Humanity (an organization that provides nutrition education and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger in the world), and the author of two cookbooks—Cooking from the Hip and Cat Cora’s Kitchen—but her foremost claim to fame is becoming the first and only female Iron Chef. Late last year, just as this Food Network darling was turning up the heat in cable television’s kitchen, and garnering fans from around the globe, she took steps to come out. Lesbians around the country applauded, but Cora herself seems nonplussed by this kind of attention.

“My fan base grows as my career grows. I have a great straight and gay fan base, both of whom have always been super supportive,” Cora says. Already media savvy, Cora chooses her words carefully and reminds us that cooking and motherhood are her top priorities. So how does she navigate being a celebrity chef and a mom? Cora says, “Being a mom means everything to me. Motherhood is what I am most proud of. At this point, our sons are too young to really grasp the concept of celebrity. ”

It’s clear Cora prefers to keep the focus on food and away from her personal life. She’s mum about how her professional relationship with Elizabeth Falkner, the famous and publicly out pastry chef and restaurateur (and one of Cora’s sous chefs on Iron Chef America) evolved. She simply states that they “have been colleagues for years.” I was hoping that she would say they double dated with their life partners.

Cora comes from a family of great cooks and admits that she learned a lot of her technique as she was growing up. “Both Greek and Southern foods were a huge part of my upbringing,” she says. She developed a love for cooking and had ambitions at an early age, “My godfather owned many restaurants, which helped develop my love for them. I always knew I wanted to have a restaurant one day. At 15, I made a business plan and presented it to him. I met Julia Child when I was in my early 20s, and she gave me advice on where to go to culinary school and what it takes to become a chef,” she adds.

Cora is passionate about her career and being a trailblazer for women culinary wannabes. “I think that becoming the first female Iron Chef has been great for women and young girls because it has helped to break down barriers. The fact that I am open about my spouse and kids hopefully inspires others to have a wonderfully open life as well,” she says.

Cora is intense (and not to mention sexy, even in her chef’s jacket), but can also play it cool when things get heated. One photo shoot in particular put her in hot water with feminists. Last year, Cora agreed to pose in a short skirt, heels and a low-cut top for FHM. Many screamed that her decision contributed to the objectification of women. She shrugs it off saying, “I made a decision to do one shoot for FHM, which other celebrity chefs have done as well. I felt it was done in a very professional and fun way. I have turned down other offers, if it was a medium that I was not comfortable with. I did the shoot for myself and when I am 80 and saggy, I can look back at it and smile.”

And Cora is getting noticed for more than her killer cooking and short skirts. She was recently awarded the Hero Visibility Award from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for her work with Chefs for Humanity, about which she is truly humble. “The work that the Human Rights Campaign does on behalf of families like yours and mine is crucial and necessary. I truly appreciate their efforts. My organization, Chefs for Humanity, much like the HRC, was founded with the sincere belief that we can make the world a better place. Being honored by a like-minded organization, such as HRC, is a tremendous honor to me.”

And what does someone who cooks for so many eat herself? “My favorite meal would include having my friends and family present. I would start with cheese, crackers and antipasti, [then serve] lamb shanks, fava beans and a Greek salad. A great red wine such as Sangiovese or Malbec would of course be included, as well as something light for dessert, like chocolate-dipped baklava.” For some unique reason, only Cat Cora would consider a piece of chocolate-dipped baklava a light dessert.

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