Iron Chef Cat Cora Dishes on How to Work Under Pressure

How Iron Chef Cat Cora went from cozy restaurant in small town Mississippi to the top of the international stage of competitive cooking is as inspiring and unexpected as some of her famous dishes.

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Born with a Wooden Spoon in Her Mouth
As a little girl, Cat dreamed of having a restaurant of her own, and felt like the restaurant business was in her DNA since both her grandfather and godfather were restaurateurs. She remembers spending her childhood in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother and developing a passion for cooking from an early age.

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire
But her soufflé-like rise from aspiring cook to accomplished chef, restaurateur, and co-host of Around the World In 80 Plates was challenging and forced her to develop her own recipe for dealing with high-pressure situations.

We headed to her home in Santa Barbara where she dished it up…

Cat's Recipe for Success in Stressful Situations

Ingredient No.1: Take a Deep Breath & Walk in Like You Own It!

As one of the few women in her industry, Cat admits it wasn't always easy, especially as a "petite, Mississippi girl with a funny accent". Cat remembers times when male chefs would tell her that she didn't belong in their kitchens, which she thought was ironic, since many of the great male chefs had been trained by their mothers! When walking into 3-Star Michelin restaurants as the only female and being scared to death, she remembers having to take a deep breath and pretending that she wasn't scared.

"Walk in like you own it! It's one the hardest things to do in the world, but that's really what you have to do to make it".

Ingredient No.2: Don't Take it Personally

Moving up the ranks from junior chef to owning her own restaurants, Cat had to deal with countless situations where people were screaming at her and barking orders at her, even throwing pots and pans!
To stay cool in the kitchen when things started heating up, Cat reminded herself that it wasn't personal and that in most cases no one would hold a grudge. Knowing that tomorrow was a fresh day meant she could let go of the drama and get on with the job.

Ingredient No.3: Develop of Positive Mantra

Cat developed the method of repeating an affirming mantra to herself that kept her calm and focused.
"I'm OK, I'm OK" and "It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business," were two that she used often.

"Whatever your mantra, whatever helps you in the moment."

Ingredient No.4: Compartmentalize and Focus

On "Iron Chef." to get into the zone, Cat compartmentalizes her life so that she's only focusing on the here and now and not thinking about the other things she has to do. Cat said that being present to the moment helped her be a better chef, businesswoman. and mother.

The Secret Ingredient No.4: Integrity

Cat credits her success to her parents, for instilling the right values and integrity and staying true to those principles in all aspects of her life and business. Be it founding Chefs for Humanity, a non-profit organization committed to promoting nutrition education, hunger relief and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger worldwide Or the upcoming launch of her first iPad App, 'Cat Cora's Kitchen' featuring some of her favorite recipes from her own kitchen and tools to ensure that everything gets to the table on time, perfectly. Everything Cat does she keeps in line with her values.

"I'm still that girl from Mississippi, I haven't changed".

We hope you never do.