Mention the name Cat Cora, and you might automatically think Iron Chef and then perhaps go a bit blank. In fact, many people believe the 45-year-old, Greek/Southern goddess of the culinary world surrendered her chef whites when she and wife Jennifer Cora, became parents of sons Zoran, Caje, Thatcher, and Nash. Not so. Jennifer indeed gave birth to the first three boys and Cora had son Nash in 2009. However, Cora soon reappeared in the reality-TV world as a co-host of Bravo TV’s series Around the World in 80 Plates with Curtis Stone where they traveled with 12 chefs competing in a culinary race across ten countries in 44 days. She’s not all just about making viewers drool at home, Cora is also involved in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program, where professional chefs provide school cafeteria workers with nutrition- al guidance and education.
Those who haven’t been to her restaurant at Kouzzina at Disneyworld or CCQ in Costa Mesa, California, can experience Cora’s cocktail and tapas lounges called Cat Cora’s Kitchen and Cat Cora’s Gourmet Market when they’re on the go thanks to their location in San Francisco’s Terminal 2, Terminal E at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, and Salt Lake City International Airport locations. Her newest restaurant, Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora, opened at Resort World Sentosa, part of Universal Studios Singapore. Her love of travel even extends to cruise lines where she was recently named godmother for Oceania’s new ship Rivieria.
We had the opportunity to speak to Cora when she was recently honored as Residence Inn’s “Mom of the Year.” She now shares the annual award with the likes of Holly Robinson Peete. Before she got ready to dazzle the crowd with a fab food demo, we asked her a few questions about life as a lesbian mom, her latest adventures, and more.
What does it mean to you to be named Residence Inn’s “Mom of the Year?”
I think it’s a great honor. Anytime you can get awarded for being a mom in any capacity is great. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the planet, and it’s my best accomplishment out of all the things I’ve done. My partner stays home with the kids. With me being in the public eye, I try to pump her up because she’s the one who stays home every day with the kids.
When you travel, what types of hotels do you like to stay in?
There’s six of us. We like to travel by car a lot to visit friends and family—especially because I’m on planes all the time. Before I even received this award, I stayed at the Residence Inn many times. I’ve found that in other hotels we’ve had to get adjoining rooms and that’s expensive and worrisome, and they don’t have the amenities like this brand. Residence Inn has the space, a kitchen, and free grocery delivery, plus the free hot breakfast. And [the kids] they’re always hungry! Plus they give you value—celebrity or not, I’m a mom, and I want value.
How’s your new restaurant in Singapore and why did you choose that area?
It’s doing fantastic! Sentosa’s got about a month waiting list to get in and that’s a good problem to have. And actually, they chose me. I had been to Singapore a couple of times before this offer came along. I was at New York’s Culinary Institute of America, my alma mater, two years ago when they announced news about opening a school branch in Singapore. The students asked me to come and be the first graduation speaker, which happened this past January. Somehow the owner of the Sentosa Resort (www.rwsentosa.com), which lays claim to S.E.A., the world’s largest aquarium, got in touch with me and told me about this underground space that had clear panels built on the walls so you can watch marine life while you eat! He asked if I was interested in opening up a restaurant there, and I love that their philosophy goes along with mine, which is sustainability. All the fish used is sustainable, the ingredients are eco-friendly, and we try to be as organic as possible, so you’ll find dishes like Arctic char topped with satsuma-habanero glaze and king salmon served with sustainable caviar and Prosecco pear-crushed almond. And obviously the beauty of the place is really exciting, so I was able to embrace all of that, which was important. We’re hoping this will be the first of several international restaurants.
Do you miss being an Iron Chef?
I’m still an Iron Chef! Somehow, there’s some crazy rumor that I no longer hold the title. I’m still very involved. Obviously there’s another female, which is about time as it’s only been on for about 14 seasons, since 2005! I’m excited. I competed against Alex—and I beat her, but hey, there was no threat, I’m still top dog! (laughs). The motto is once an Iron Chef, always an Iron Chef. So get that word out—there can be more than one female Iron Chef, and we need to celebrate that for women as a whole.