First Female Iron Chef America Cat Cora ’95,
CIA Alumni Bio
Cat Cora ’95 is a chef, television personality, author, contributing editor, restaurateur, lifestyle entrepreneur, and the first-ever female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Raised in Jackson, MS, Cat comes from a long line of culinarians. 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.
Training with the Masters
After attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, Cat worked for Chef Anne Rozenweig and Chef Larry Forgione ’74, staged in France with Georges Blanc and Roger Vergé, and worked under Chef Melissa Kelly ’88. She was chef de cuisine at Napa Valley’s Bistro Don Giovanni and executive chef and partner of Postino in Lafayette, CA. In August 2006, Cat was named the executive chef for Bon Appétit magazine. In November of the same year, Bon Appétit gave Cat their Teacher of the Year Award, an accolade she calls, “the greatest recognition I could achieve as a chef.”
Cat made her TV debut in 1999 as co-host of Food Network’s Melting Pot with Rocco DiSpirito ’86. She went on to host My Country My Kitchen: Greece, Date Plate, and co-host Around the World in 80 Plates. She has hosted, judged, and appeared on numerous hit shows including NBC’s Celebrity Cooking Showdown; Food Network’s America’s Best Cook, Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped All-Stars, and The Next Iron Chef;, and Bravo’s Top Chef and Master Chef to name a few. In 2019, Cat was one of the three judges on ABC’s Family Food Fight.
In March 2010, Cat was honored by the CIA with an Augie™ award as Alumna of the Year. In November 2012, Cat was the 25th chef and first female chef to be inducted into The Culinary Hall of Fame. Cat has been a commencement speaker at the CIA’s Hyde Park campus and at the Singapore campus.
Along with all her other accomplishments, Cat has numerous restaurants: The Ocean Restaurant at the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore; Cat Cora’s Kitchen and Gourmet Markets at the San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Bush International Airports; Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Disney World; CCQ at Macy’s, Postino in San Francisco; and Cat Cora’s Taproom in the Detroit Metro Airport. In 2015, Cat and business partner Chris Chiarappa opened Mesa Burger in Santa Barbara.
Cat developed a pop-up restaurant, Olilo by Cat Cora, an exclusive pop-up concept for Aramark’s business dining clients. It is currently in 30+ states. Her latest collaboration with Aramark is Wicked Eats by Cat Cora, which includes street foods from Greece, Morocco, Spain, and the Middle East.
In 2018, Cat partnered with WW (Weight Watchers) on a first-of-its-kind health food destination inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, called WW Freestyle™ Café.
Cat has authored four cookbooks, Cat Cora’s Kitchen, Classics with a Twist, Cooking from the Hip, and Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef’s Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness, which chronicles the difficulties and triumphs Cat experienced on the path to becoming a chef.
Outside the kitchen, Cat is known for her philanthropy and speaking out about mental health issues in the hospitality industry. She is president and founder of Chefs for Humanity, an organization that originated in response to the 2004 Tsunami disaster. UNICEF has named her nutritional spokesperson to help raise awareness for humanitarian crises around the world.
Chef Cat Cora majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is an executive chef and restaurateur in Santa Barbara, CA.