Cooking with Cat Cora
Published in Where Orlando magazine, by Sarah Sekula
Chances are you will spot a famed foodie star or two at this year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Favorites like Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s hit series “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern”; Paula Deen’s son Jamie Deen; female Iron Chef Cat Cora and a host of others will be making appearances. We had a chance to catch up recently with Cora, who will be hosting a three-course meal during the festival at Kouzzina by Cat Cora, her Mediterranean/Greek-inspired eatery located at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. Chefs will demonstrate how to prepare an appetizer, main course and dessert, and each course will be paired with a selection of wines. Here’s what she had to say about the festival and her love for dishing up something special.
Where can visitors find you at the Food & Wine Festival?
I will be doing some demos, signings and appearances at my restaurant, Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Walt Disneyworld’s Boardwalk Resort. Check out the Festival ‘s website for the latest schedule, or you can find out where I’ll be by visiting my newly updated website, www.catcora.com.
Name a few of your favorite recipes.
I love Koto Kapama, which is Greek cinnamon-stewed chicken. It’s so warm and comforting, and makes me think of my childhood and cooking with my grandma Alma. I also really love year-round the fresh and flavorful Horiatiki, which is a classic Greek salad, with sauteed garlic, big chunks of feta cheese, and some of my “Cat Cora’s Kitchen by GAEA” extra virgin olive oils and packaged olives imported directly from Greece.
What do you enjoy most about the Food & Wine Festival?
It’s always so nice to meet my fans face to face, and there’s not a more magical place than the Disney parks. My whole extended family usually comes to Walt Disney World, and we have a fun-filled reunion during the festival, which all the kids and adults alike really enjoy.
What one talent, when it comes to cooking, are you especially grateful to have?
Not being afraid to experiment in the kitchen, or cook from the hip, off the cuff, as I entitled my second cookbook, Cooking From the Hip.
Is there a chief personal character attribute that best serves you in your role as a chef?
I think as is true with all successful chefs, I have a thick skin that keeps me going and prevents me from falling down or giving up when the pressure is on.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Cooking isn’t just my career. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, and I’ve been able to attract interest in cooking to my children. We all love to cook at home. One of our favorite things to eat is homemade ice cream that is made using liquid nitrogen.
What were the main points in the business plan you created at age 15?
At 15, I didn’t know all the little details I know now, but I knew my restaurant concept would be Greek inspired and named after my dad, Spiro. One day!
Do you remember some of the first meals you cooked as a young chef?
I used to throw tea parties when I was very young, with sweets and brewed tea. Aside from that, I was in the kitchen with my family at a young age, helping cook traditional Greek dishes and Southern fare.
What’s the best thing about being the first woman Iron Chef?
It’s incredible to have this platform, which has allowed me to be a role model for young, aspiring female chefs and show them that they can break ground in this industry.
Describe the moment you knew you were destined to be a chef.
When my mentor, Julia Child, took the time to give me advice and really opened up my interest in the culinary arts, it all just clicked together for me. After speaking to her, I applied to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park the very next day. I’ve enjoyed every moment of my decision ever since.
What was the best advice Julia Child gave you?
To apply to the CIA, one of the top culinary schools. I still believe in its program and continue to support it today.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am inspired by the people I meet, the different countries I’ve traveled to, and the vast range of cultures I’ve experienced. My family is also a huge inspiration; I want to keep creating meals for them and with them.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs who’d like to open a restaurant?
As with any new venture, just stay strong, organized and believe in yourself. Really drive home the notion that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.