Behind The Apron: Iron Chef Cat Cora (Ocean Restaurant, RWS)

Chef Cat Cora is quite the chilli padi. Like the small but spicy pepper, this petite American chef packs quite the punch. In 2005, she made television history on Iron Chef America as the first female Iron Chef. The accomplished restaurateur also became the first female chef to be inducted into the American Academy of Chefs Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2013, she opened her first restaurant in Asia, Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora at Resorts World Sentosa.

With such accomplishments under her belt, it is not surprising that Chef Cora continues to redefine stereotypes. True to her nature, Chef Cora reveals that she loves chilli as well. “People can’t believe it because I’m American but I love really spicy food. I’m always asking for extra chilli and sambal.
Bring it on!”

We chat with Chef Cora who was in town recently to promote her new menu at Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora.

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You graduated with a degree in physiology and wellness. Why did you decide to become a chef instead?

I felt it was really important to get a college degree. I really loved education and I wanted to get a college degree. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the culinary scene and the celebrity chef didn’t exist in the US. It was still very much a working class career. Besides Julia Child, there wasn’t any role model in the chef industry.

Being a chef wasn’t something that you made a career out of. So I went to college first and studied wellness which I love. It has actually been fantastic as I’ve been able to fuse the two together. For me, it has been great to be able to know about nutrition and wellness and to be able to use that in my cuisine.

How has your Iron Chef experience shaped you as a chef?

It has definitely made me expand my horizons in terms of cuisine. I believe in going into different competitions with a different cuisine. So it really gave me a chance to jump off and start researching other cuisines and knowing those cuisines really well, whether it was Asian, Moroccan, South African or various parts of the American cuisine.  While certain chefs specialised in a particular cuisine, I wanted to be the chef that came in and did a variety of global cuisines.

Besides being able to inspire other people to cook, the best part of the Iron Chef experience was also breaking down barriers for women in the industry.

You mentioned about breaking down barriers for women. What advice do you have for women chefs who are just starting out?

I would say to believe in yourself and be really fierce in your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not able to do it because we know that’s not true.

We know women can cook as fast and as hard as men. We’ve proven that in Iron Chef and now that it has been proven, there’s no reason why women chefs should let anyone keep them from attaining their goals. Even when you are nervous or afraid to try something new, try to be as fearless as possible and go for it.

What is the most memorable piece of advice you’ve received from your mentor Julia Child?

Julia was great about directing me to a phenomenal cooking school which is the Culinary Institute of America. She also said the exact same things to me that I shared earlier – Don’t let anyone take your dreams away. Be strong and preserve.

All those things are really important to making it as a female in a male-dominated industry. And Julia has always done the same herself. She believed in herself, stayed authentic, and stayed true to her philosophy.

I also give that same advice to a lot of young women in the industry and young chefs in general.

As a proud mother of four, what do you usually cook at home for your kids?

Just simple food that is made of great quality and sustainable ingredients. There is a great myth that chefs are always eating truffle, foie gras and lobster.

We actually make simple food like getting a great piece of salmon that is sustainable and bringing it home to make fish tacos or just an organic chicken that is roasted with herbs, lemons and root vegetables.

My kids are good eaters so we’ve been pretty successful in most of the meals. My kids really love my homemade lasagna that is based on my grandmother’s recipe that has been handed down.

My Greek Cinnamon Stewed Chicken is also a hit with my kids. You take chicken, cut it up and do a rub of cinnamon, pepper and sea salt. Sear it with tomatoes, onions and garlic and oregano then let it simmer for a few hours. Put it over orzo or rice or macaroni and it’s really good!

Find out what we enjoyed about Chef Cora’s new menu at Ocean Restaurant HERE!

Interview

One Response to Behind The Apron: Iron Chef Cat Cora (Ocean Restaurant, RWS)

  1. […] first female Iron Chef and the lady behind Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora, Chef Cat Cora was in town earlier this month to launch her brand new 4 course set lunch menu. As a strong […]

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