Cat Cora at the National Innovation Conference


I met Cat Cora! I’m all the way to the left in this photo!

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Greek America Foundation’s National Innovation Conference (NIC). In attendance were Greek American global leaders, innovators, thinkers and doers many of whom discussed important topics facing humanity. One of those celebrities happened to Cat Cora, my all-time favorite celebrity chef who I wrote about last week.

Cora was a brilliant speaker who engaged the audience and kept everyone entertained. Even though some of her subject matter was depressing, especially the story about visiting Haiti and seeing Haitian eating mud pies to keep their stomachs full, she maintained an optimistic tone that the whole crowd caught on to. After her talk, I waited to get the chance to talk to Cora and perhaps get a photo.

A few friends of mine also wanted to see the legendary chef, and so we waited in line. Finally when we were up, I felt a little star-struck. Even though she called herself  “a little Mississippi girl who’s 5’2 and has a funny accent,” it was obvious to me that she was so much more. Cat Cora is a Wonder Woman in every sense of the word. We talked to her for a couple of minutes about Iron Chef America and her shots of ouzo, and she was gracious, down-to-earth and genuine.

Here’s what she talked about at the NIC:

Cora discussed her Greek American heritage and her non-profit organization, Chefs for Humanity. Cora began by talking about cooking with her mom at a young age. Even though her father is the one who is actually Greek, her mom became “a lot more Greek” and even got baptized. Her parents set the foundation for Cora to become a great chef, she said. All those moments she had with her family are things that she’ll never forget, and it’s because of that that her parents are her mentors.

When Julia Child came to Mississippi, Cora knew that she needed to speak to her. She waited and was the last person in line to speak to the world renowned chef. They talked for almost 45 minutes about how Cora could become a chef. Child convinced Cora to attend culinary school, which she did, and the rest is pretty much history. Since Cora feels like she owes so many people that helped her on her way to the top, she felt an obligation to give back.

Her calling became Chefs For Humanity, a coalition of chefs, foodies, etc. who help globally when there is a major crisis, such as a tsunami or hurricane. Cora mobilized the culinary world, fed over 5,000 people a day during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and raise the morale of the people who were affected by the destruction.

I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to meet Cat Cora and talk with her for a couple of minutes. She spoke to everyone who approached her, and seemed genuinely interested in what everyone has to say! I think I’m going to purchase her cookbooks soon, and hopefully get the chance to try a few of her delicious recipes!

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