Flavor First: Cat Cora

Fresh ideas from an Iron Chef who inspires a Greek food revival.

  • Pomegranate adds festive color and flavor to a traditional holiday entree.
    Photo courtesy of Cooking from the Hip by Cat Cora (Hougton Mifflin, 2007).

Cat Cora took a break from filming the sixth season of the Food Network’s Iron Chef to speak with The Herb Companion. An acclaimed chef and author, Cora also is founder and president of Chefs for Humanity. In response to Hurricane Katrina, Chefs for Humanity (assisted by the Food Network) organized three 18-wheelers filled with salvaged food to provide nearly 5,000 meals a day to people living in shelters and to first responders.

In this Flavor First interview, Cora discusses why fresh and seasonal foods are best, why giving back is such a gratifying obligation, and why she can’t remember the food in her most memorable meal.

The Herb Companion: You grew up in a small Greek community in Jackson, Mississippi.  How has that shaped your philosophy about food?

Cat Cora: In Mississippi, everyone had gardens, and neighbors would share big bags of fresh vegetables. We always had plenty of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers for salads. It was a way of life. And our Greek community had a lot of fig trees and citrus trees. Our traditional dishes featured fresh, seasonal ingredients, and that certainly shaped my philosophy about food.

HC: What role do herbs play in your cooking?

CC: I use fresh herbs every single day. …. Whether it’s chopped cilantro for fish tacos, or fresh oregano and dill for salad, I use herbs in every dish.

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