According to celebrity chef Cat Cora, when she became the first female Iron Chef in America, things started to get a little weird. "I got into a winning streak...I would wear the same socks, I'd eat the same breakfast - I mean five almonds on my granola, my two tablespoons ... of yogurt... I measured everything out," she told host Ophira Eisenberg. "You get weird, you get freakin' weird."
Cora grew up around chefs — both her father and grandfather were restaurateurs. So when cooking icon Julia Child advised her to leave her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi to study at the Culinary Institute of America, Cora signed up the very next day. From that point on, Cora's career took off "fast and furious." In 2001, she became the co-host of Food Network's Melting Pot with Rocco DiSpirito. Since then, she's taken her signature enthusiasm and no-nonsense style to more than a dozen other TV food shows.
Cora firmly believes anyone can learn to cook. "I've always said, if you can read ... you can cook." That's what she proves on her new Fox TV show My Kitchen Rules, where she and co-host Curtis Stone judge celebrity pairs as they invite each other over for high-stakes dinner parties. "We created an environment where we wouldn't allow them to fall short," explained Cora. "You're not going to open boxes, you're not going to open cans...we're going to do this the right way."
In honor of Cora's TV experience, her game is inspired by the cooking show staple challenge where competitors are given strange ingredients that make no sense together, and are asked to create something edible. Cora guesses nonsensical dishes made up of rhyming foods, like "steak cake."
On going to a friend's house for dinner, knowing they aren't the best cook
I have eaten a lot of really bad meals with a lot of people I love
On how she won 5 straight Iron Chef matches
You gotta get the endorphins going, you gotta like, keep limber... I ran the whole time. I never stopped ... I'd fly by Bobby Flay, or whoever. Bobby'd be like, 'What are you doing?'
On her dream "secret ingredient"
Baby octopus, oh they're so awesome...If I was a baby octopus...if I was given to a gourmet restaurant...like a three-star restaurant, and I'm on the grill, and I'm so tenderly marinated... rubbed and massaged before I was cooked and eaten ... I mean hello! Are you going to swim in the ocean all your life? (...) How many octopus get that chance?