Executive Chef. TV personality. Restaurant owner. Philanthropist.
Mother of two. Out lesbian.
Food Network star Cat Cora, 40, is all of these things, but it is the
latter descriptor that still comes as a surprise to many of her fans. Although the celebrated chef has mentioned her partner in interviews since early
2005, she has kept a fairly low profile about it, often simply referring to
Jennifer, 36, as "my partner" or "better half," or using the
nonspecific term "we."
The Greek American’s official
Food Network bio mentions only that "Cat resides in Northern California
with her family, including her biggest fans, her two sons" and her official
mentions only her oldest son.
But in the Nov. 19th issue of People
magazine, Cat posed with Jennifer and their two sons in front of a Thanksgiving
dinner spread, making her sexual orientation known to millions of Americans.
Cat Cora, it seems, is finally putting it all on the table.
Cora grew up in a small Greek community in Jackson, Miss.,
in a family that celebrated cooking. "I loved entertaining from a young
age," she told People. "I had an Easy Bake oven and was serious
about tea parties."
She developed her first business plan for a restaurant at age 15, but it was
the advice she received from the late chef Julia Child at a book signing that
set Cora on the path to becoming a professional chef.
"Go to the Culinary Institute of America," Child told the recent
University of Southern Mississippi graduate, where Cora had majored in exercise
physiology and minored in biology (because, she jokingly told Aventura magazine earlier this year, "at the time in Mississippi there wasn’t
the ‘celebrity chef’ status").
Cora applied and was accepted to the prestigious culinary school in New York.
After graduation, she apprenticed with two master chefs in France, then returned
to New York to work as a sous-chef before heading out to Northern California
to work as chef de cuisine at Bistro Don Giovanni, a Napa Valley restaurant.
Cora made her television debut in 1999 as co-host of Food Network’s
Melting Pot With Rocco Di Spirito. Over the next several years, she
hosted or co-hosted several TV shows, including My Country
My Kitchen: Greece (Food Network), Simplify Your Life (Fine Living)
and Kitchen Accomplished (Food Network).
In response to the 2004 tsunami, Cora co-founded Chefs
for Humanity in January 2005, an organization modeled on Doctors Without
Borders that brings together "a grassroots coalition of chefs and culinary
professionals guided by a mission to quickly be able to raise funds and provide
resources for important emergency and humanitarian aid, nutritional education,
and hunger-related initiatives throughout the world."
The money raised by Chefs
for Humanity so far has benefited UNICEF, Hurricane Katrina victims and
other anti-hunger initiatives worldwide.
But things really began to take off for Cora in April 2005, when she was invited to be the first female challenger on the popular competitive cooking series Iron