Cat Cora — Iron Chef, TV star, restaurateur, cookbook author, cookware designer, ardent humanitarian and mom of four boys — has just spent a long day putting finishing touches on her new Bravo series “Around the World in 80 Plates” — which premieres Wednesday, May 9 — and apologizes for being weary for this interview. It’s hard to imagine how she wouldn’t be.
But it’s that ability to multitask with panache — and appreciate the skill in others — that makes Cora the perfect co-host (with Curtis Stone of “Top Chef Masters”) of “80 Plates,” in which the duo leads a dozen adventurous chefs on a cooking competition that spans five continents and 10 countries in just 40 days.
“To be able to find chefs that could handle all of those things — being able to cook and travel together, to be dropped into a country and acclimate so quickly to a culture and a brand-new cuisine, to be able to find their way around — all of those things make up the excitement and thrill of the show,” Cora tells Zap2it. “It was just so fascinating to watch.”
Cora cites an episode in which the contestants had to prepare authentic street food in a bustling Thailand market as a highlight.
“It was such a crazy, crazy place to have to prep,” she says. “I mean, it was a mob scene in that market. And Thai cuisine is really hard to pull off, but I have to say that was some of my favorite food that they prepared.”
While Cora relished the opportunity to immerse herself in such a whirlwind of cultures and cuisines, she says that packing her bags is always bittersweet. To salve the wound of being away from her kids, Cora recently penned the charming children’s book “A Suitcase Surprise for Mommy,” in which a little boy named after her eldest son, Zoran, tucks a special gift into his mother’s bag before she leaves on a business trip.
Did Cora get any suitcase surprises when she left for “80 Plates”?
“I did,” she says, chuckling. “I got several little guys and pirates and pictures. I wrote that book on an airplane in, like, 30 minutes because it was one of those times where I was really feeling guilty for leaving home, and Zoran was really upset because I was leaving home. It was so therapeutic to get that out and put it on paper.”
What are you currently reading?
“A James Patterson thriller. It’s mindless.”
What did you have for dinner last night?
“I was at Gjelina in L.A., and I had really great squid and lamb riblets and beet salad with avocado.”
What is your next project?
“I’m building an app. We just finished shooting it.”
Any upcoming trips?
“I just got named godmother of a brand-new cruise ship built by Oceana cruise lines. We’ll be christening it in Barcelona and then sailing through the Mediterranean. We launch the show May 9, and I’ll be ‘bon voyage’ May 11.”
Check out some clips from Bravo’s new series “Around the World in 80 Plates”: