Cat Cora, Iron Chef and Executive Chef of Bon AppetitCat Cora knows where danger lurks in the kitchen. She heads restaurants on both costs and has spent most of her life working in one impressive kitchen or another. Cat came from a Greek family of restaurateurs in the South, and by 15 she had created a business plan for her own restaurant. Since then she's become the only female Iron Chef in America, founded Chefs for Humanity, created a new show for Oprah's new network, been named the executive chef at Bon Appetit, starred in two cooking shows with the Muppets, is raising four young boys with her wife Jennifer, and that's the very short version. Now she's helping Palmolive spread the good word about kitchen safety and cleanliness. We asked her what our most dangerous cooking habits are, what it takes to succeed in the male-centric world of restaurants, what's been the biggest surprise of working with the Muppets, and more...What are the most dangerous kitchen habits people have?
Many people don't realize that cross-contamination is a real risk in the kitchen. There's a study that shows bacteria on a cutting board can double after ten minutes of use, whether cutting raw meat or vegetables. This is why it is so important to wash cooking prep tools after each use with a dish liquid like Ultra Palmolive Antibacterial Dish Liquid. It will help reduce the risk of transferring bacteria to other surfaces or ingredients.
Additionally, I've found that people leave their food out for extended periods of time. This increases the risk for bacterial growth, so you should always remember to place items on ice to prevent the risk of the food going bad.
Are you a clean freak or not so much?
I would say that I am a clean freak when it comes to the kitchen. For example, I am constantly cleaning out the refrigerator. Things spill and drip and, even though it's cold, bacteria can still grow in a cold space like a refrigerator. Additionally, I replace the sponge I use about once a week based on the bacterial growth found in wet sponges.
Outside of the kitchen I'm not as much a "clean freak" as I am focused on overall cleanliness. Living in a household with four boys we are constantly cleaning up, but we want them to have the freedom to play and make a little bit of a mess. We definitely don't expect them to live in a completely sterile environment.
Of all your recipes, which is your family's favorite?
My Greek Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken. It's a recipe I grew up with and incorporates healthy, but delicious ingredients. This is the perfect family friendly meal that kids and adults can enjoy together.
What skills do you think it has taken to be a top female chef in such a male dominated space?
Spending a lot of time in male-dominated kitchens helped me develop a really strong sense of strength and confidence - probably two of the most important skills you need to be a top female chef.
You have two cooking shows with the Muppets, The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora and Hasty Tasty Cooking Tips with Cat Cora and the Muppets . What do the rest of us not know about working with the Muppets?
When working with the Muppets you forget that they aren't actually real beings. They become life-like in your presence, and sometimes you have to remind yourself that there are puppeteers controlling their movements and words.
See Cat cook with Chelsea Lately: