Q&A with Chef Cat Cora
In an exclusive interview, Cat reveals some of her favorite foods and kitchen utensils. Plus, the meal that almost brought down the house—literally.
Cat: We make this really great homemade chicken soup, and I know that sounds so, you know, cliché. But we make the whole chicken, lots of veggies, and I kind of go Greek-style with it because I throw lots of lemon in it, lots of black pepper, some good sheep's cheese to finish it.
It's just real good and meaty, and I just love it. … That's what we really eat when it's rainy outside and cold, and we want some comfort.
Cat: I have to say, it's actually split. It's my family and Julia Child, because [my family members] were big influences early in my career. [Julia] was a big influence when I got to spend time with her when I was beginning my career.
Cat: There was a time … I had a date, and I burnt three bags of microwave popcorn in a row. I think that was my worst, and I did catch somebody's kitchen on fire with a chicken one time. … Their oven was dirty, and I didn't know. It caught the whole thing on fire. We had to get the fire extinguisher, and extinguish the whole chicken. That was it; dinner was shot. We had to get takeout—Chinese.
Cat: It depends. If I'm outside, and it's a really sunny, hot day and I'm grilling, I'll listen to Bob Marley. If I'm inside, and it's kind of rainy and bluesy, I'll listen to Billie Holiday. If I want a little Rat Pack-y feel to it, I'll listen to a little Sinatra.
Cat: Many, many. I love Indian. I love Thai. I love anything Asian, anything that's Indian-influenced. I love spice, and sometimes it's not enough, so I ask for extra chili paste and chili flakes. [I like] anything that's got big, bold flavors and that pretty much covers every cuisine…so anything! There's not many that I don't like.
Cat: I cook with a lot of garlic. Garlic's probably my number one. And then citrus—lemons and limes—things like that. We have a lemon tree, we have a lime tree, and we have an orange tree that's in the neighbors' [yard].
Cat: I'll tell you one person I would have loved to eat with that's has now passed away, and I never got to meet her but I love every single book she's ever written—M.F.K. Fisher, who is like the queen of culinary literature. I would have absolutely loved to have a meal with her.
[Her book] The Art of Eating is great, and I give that to all of my cooks when I open a restaurant. I say: "Go. Take this home and read this because you're going to have a deeper passion for food, a deeper understanding of food."
Cat: Probably Jennifer, my partner. She'll tell me straight up: "This sucked. Try again." She's very, very patient where I'm kind of this fast-paced [chef], and so she definitely can do a really good grilled, low-and-slow fennel chicken. She tells me: "Don't even open the top of the grill and touch it. Don't turn it, don't flip it, don't look at it." … She's someone I know will always tell me truth.
Cat: I would say my Vitamix blender, my food processor and my collection of wooden spoons—got to have wooden spoons! If you don't have a wooden spoon in the kitchen, you've got to go out and get a wooden spoon. It's just…I can't explain it. It's just a love affair with the wooden spoons. It's just like the old country.
Cat: I think I'd do a little of everything. I think for my dessert, I'd have ice cream, peanut butter something and chocolate together. I'd definitely do great cheeses from everywhere because I love cheese—great breads, great wines. I'd probably do like a really great slow-cooked lamb shank, some fava beans and a really good gremolata there. … There's so many things that I would love to have—just a smorgasbord. I want a whole feast.
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