Major: Culinary Arts
Job Title: Executive Chef/Restaurateur
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Cat Cora ’95 is a chef, television personality, author, restaurateur, and entrepreneur. Raised in Jackson, MS, Cat comes from a long line of culinarians. Her father, godfather, and grandfather were all successful chefs. Her family hails from Skopelos, Greece where her grandmother was known as a fantastic cook as well.
Known around the world as the first female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, it was Cat’s culinary expertise and flair that enabled her to join the ranks of such Iron Chef luminaries as Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Masaharu Morimoto. As executive chef for Bon Appétit magazine, Cat brought talent to bear every day. In November 2006, Bon Appétit gave her their Teacher of the Year Award, an accolade she calls, “the greatest recognition she could achieve as a chef.”
After earning a bachelor of science degree in exercise physiology and biology from the University of Southern Mississippi, Cat set her sights on the world’s premier culinary college. While attending The Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park campus, Cat apprenticed with and then worked for Chef Anne Rozenweig at Arcadia in New York City and worked at the Beekman Tavern under Chef Larry Forgione ’74 of An American Place in Rhinebeck, NY. After graduating with honors from the CIA, she continued her education first in Europe—apprenticing with two of France’s three-star Michelin Guide chefs: Georges Blanc and Roger Vergé. Back in the U.S., Cat honed her skills as a sous chef at The Old Chatham Shepherding Company under Chef Melissa Kelly ’88. She then headed to the west coast as chef de cuisine at Napa Valley’s Bistro Don Giovanni, and went on to become executive chef and partner of Postino in Lafayette, CA.
Cat made her TV debut in 1999, as co-host of Food Network’s Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito ’86. She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate, and was one of the featured hosts on Fine Living’s Simplify Your Life. In April 2002, a documentary entitled Cat’s In The Kitchen was made about her first James Beard Foundation dinner. In 2008, Cat voiced a role in the video game Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine.
In March 2010, Cat was honored by her alma mater at the annual Leadership Awards and presented with the Augie™ award for Alumna of the Year. In June 2010, Cat joined First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Chefs Move To Schools campaign in an effort to provide nutritional guidance and education from professional chefs to schools nationwide. The following year she launched a line of cookware, Cat Cora by Starfrit, which emphasizes clever, eco-friendly cookware and kitchen essentials to make mealtimes easy for the home cook.
In May 2012, Cora stepped out of her chef’s jacket into a new role as co-host alongside Curtis Stone for Bravo’s hit series, Around the World in 80 Plates. They traveled with 12 chefs competing in a culinary race across 10 countries in 44 days. She also released her new iPad app entitled Cat Cora’s Kitchen. Cat’s app is a robust and powerful tool that enables home cooks of every skill level to plan, prepare, and serve individual dishes or complete menus from her repertoire. In November 2012, Cat was the 25th chef and first female chef to be inducted into The Culinary Hall of Fame.
Along with all her other accomplishments, Cat opened The Ocean Restaurant at the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa off Singapore. The 63-seat restaurant is inside the world’s largest oceanarium and has stunning views of deep-sea wildlife from every table. All the fish used is sustainable, and the ingredients are eco-friendly and as organic as possible. Cat also operates Cat Cora’s Kitchen and Gourmet Markets at the San Francisco Airport, Salt Lake City Airport, and Bush International Airport. She is the author of four cookbooks, Cat Cora’s Kitchen, Classics with a Twist, Cooking from the Hip, and Cooking as Fast as I Can, which chronicles the difficulties and triumphs Cat experienced on the path to becoming a chef.
Outside the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy. She is president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization that originated in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. Modeled after Doctors Without Borders, the not-for-profit gathers the culinary community together to raise funds and provide resources for important emergency, educational, and hunger-related causes. Recognizing Cat’s altruistic determination in the food world, UNICEF named her a nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.
Cat is a member of the Macy’s Culinary Council and is the culinary director of the Festival of the Dessert in Coachella Valley. She has hosted, guest judged, and appeared in a number of hit food shows, including NBC’s Celebrity Cooking Showdown, Food Network’s America’s Best Cook, Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped All-Stars, The Next Food Network Star, and The Next Iron Chef, and Bravo’s Top Chef and Master Chef. She also makes regular appearances on a wide variety of talk shows.
Cat has been a commencement speaker at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus and was the inaugural speaker at the first graduating class of bachelor’s degree students at the Singapore campus.