Food for thought : Cat Cora dishes at the 2010 Augie Awards
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On March 18th, The Culinary Institute of America paraded into Manhattan for the fourth annual AUGIE Awards. Each recipient, all CIA graduates, is presented this distinction for their achievements and excellence in the food industry. Celebrity Chef Catherine “Cat” Cora received this year’s Alumnae of the Year award. Food expert Joseph Wickes, an Event Director for Great Performances in SOHO, got the Cat’s meow.
Chef Cat Cora – born Catherine – got her nickname while a student at the Culinary Institute of America, and is using her celebrity voice to aid humanitarian efforts. Balancing her responsibilities like a tight rope walker, Cora is Executive Chef of Bon AppÃ©tit, the owner of her own restaurant in Disney World, and is founder of Chefs for Humanity, a non profit organization providing nutrition education, hunger relief, and emergency and humanitarian aid. “It started as a Doctors Without Borders for the culinary industry”, says Cora. “Our main passion is emergency feeding relief, which we did at Katrina and we will also do again in Haiti.” Cora’s relief efforts do not stop there. She is also partnered with Share Our Strength, focusing on child hunger and providing nutritious foods. If Cora’s largesse seems at all motherly, it’s no mistake. She and her partner Jennifer are the mothers of four sons, and reside in Santa Barbara.
Cat identifies with a continuous (and familiar) source of inspiration to keep pushing her further. Cathy – her nickname back in Mississippi – went to a local book signing to meet none other than Julia Child, who graciously advised her young fan on their shared passion. “She took time out of her schedule to really talk to me and one of things she said to me is ‘you’ve got to go to CIA, it’s the Harvard of culinary schools,’ so I applied the next day. That’s all I needed was for Julia Child to tell me where to go to school.” It’s not every day an aspiring chef gets that kind of advice.
Following CIA, Cat apprenticed in New York and Europe before finding fame on the Food Network and Fine Living. Notoriety has empowered Cat to use her culinary passions for the benefit of others. “Now I do have a voice. I can pick the phone up and say, ‘I want to talk about this. I want to take a group of people to Haiti.’ I get a lot of support behind that. It is much easier for me now. We need to band together and unite for a great cause.” The cause currently is the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Cora’s Chefs for Humanity just launched “1 Million in One Month for Haiti” a fundraising campaign who name clearly spells its mission.
That evening, Cora was to soon be standing in front of an audience of young chefs in training, waiting for their turn to go out into the world and make their mark. Speaking as a humanitarian, a mother, a colleague, and an alumna, Cora advises, “follow your dreams. There will be doors shut in your face, and you need to go to the next door. Go with it! There are always times when you think ‘is this the wrong path?’ The reward is worth it.”
Please make a donation at http://www.chefsforhumanity.org/donate.php