Cooking as Fast as I Can: A Chef's Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness
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“Affecting….as warm and comforting as a home-cooked meal” (People), a no-holds-barred memoir on Southern life, Greek heritage, same sex marriage—and the meals that have shaped her memories—from the Food Network star and first female winner of Iron Chef, Cat Cora.
Before she became a renowned chef and Food Network star, Cat Cora was just a girl from Jackson, Mississippi, where days were slow and every meal was made from scratch. By the age of fifteen, Cora was writing the business plan for her first restaurant. Her love of cooking started in her Greek home, where fresh feta and home-cured olives graced the table. Cat spent her days internalizing the dishes that would form the cornerstone of her cooking philosophy—from crispy fried chicken and honey-drenched biscuits to spanakopita. But outside the kitchen, Cat’s life was volatile.
In Cooking as Fast as I Can, Cat Cora reveals the experiences that shaped her life—from early childhood sexual abuse to the realities of life as lesbian in the deep South. She chronicles how she found her passion in the kitchen and went on to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and apprentice under Michelin star chefs in France. After her big break as a co-host with Rocco Di Spirito on the Food Network’s Melting Pot, Cat broke barriers by becoming the first-ever female contestant on Iron Chef.
By turns epic and intimate, Cat writes movingly about how she found courage and redemption in the dark truths of her past and about how she found solace in the kitchen and work, how her passion for cooking helped her to overcome hardships and ultimately find happiness at home and became a wife and a mother to four boys. Above all, this is “a disarmingly candid look at the highs, lows, and true grit of a culinary star” (Kirkus Reviews).
immediately. I went home, threw myself onto my bed, and sobbed. I cried daily for what seemed like weeks on end. Chris was busy with his own life, and just assumed, I think, that I was one more inexplicable girl. Grandmom Alma thought a boy might be to blame. My dad was perplexed, but he was Greek, and understood in his DNA that even though he was soft-spoken, passionate outbursts were nothing to get too excited over. My friends at school were mystified, concerned, and finally just sort of
thinking you’d be good on the show; why don’t you come on?” “Great,” I said. Like most cooking shows at the time, Bay Café had a production budget of about forty-seven cents per episode. I was required to provide my own food. Bay Café was a “dump and stir” show, no theatrics, rival teams, or time clock. I demonstrated how to make pine-nut-crusted veal scaloppini with romesco sauce, crisp garlic, and basil, a favorite dish on the Postino menu. Until now, I’d never had a burning desire to be a
stick. There were shows profiling iconic restaurants around the nation and shows that took famous chefs (or, at that time, any chef they could get) to their homeland where they would cook the food they grew up on. There were food news shows and food game shows, and finally, a show starring Mario Batali, Molto Mario. In 1999, only a few weeks before I met Jennifer, East Meets West, hosted by Ming Tsai, a Chinese American chef born in Newport Beach, California, won an Emmy, beating out both Martha
environment you’re in has to be conducive to schmoozing. How many times did I attend a get-acquainted gathering only to find that my fellow chefs, as well as the executives at the network or production company, already knew one another? At one cocktail party to kick off something or other, I arrived at the restaurant to find my costars were already broing it up, buying one another drinks and calling each other and our bosses by their last names. Had they already grabbed a few beers before the
what you need in a shoe when you’re on your feet all day?). I opened my first international restaurant, in Singapore. I landed the spot as cohost for a short-lived Bravo reality series, Around the World in 80 Plates, a very ambitious, very expensive show produced by Magical Elves, a great and reputable production company run by people I genuinely liked. (After it wasn’t renewed we joked that Around the States in 80 Plates would have been a more affordable option.) The show was a hybrid travel