The Truth About Cat Cora

On March 7, 2021, when Tournament of Champions returns to Food Network, one of the 16 chefs competing in the boundary-pushing cooking competition will be Cat Cora (via Food Network). If you're thinking that her name sounds familiar, it's probably because you've been hearing it since the late 1990s, when she first turned up on Food Network, co-hosting Melting Pot with Rocco Di Spirito (via Cora's website). Now a world-famous chef slash restauranteur slash author slash health-and-fitness expert slash philanthropist slash perennial television host for many networks, including Fox, Bravo, and ABC, what Cora may be most famous for is her sheer, unabashed moxie. 

Over and over again, Cat Cora has "shattered the glass ceiling" in the perennially male-dominated culinary world, including in 2005, when she became the first female Iron Chef on Iron Chef America (via Cora's website). While that victory was, no doubt, one of her most prestigious as far as the foodie world goes, it is really just one of many in a long history of boundary-breaking personal and professional moments for Cora, starting from her childhood. Read on for the truth about Cat Cora.

Even if she hadn't become a celebrity chef, you probably would have known Cat Cora's name

Born Catherine Ann Cora on April 3, 1967, Cora was raised in Jackson, Mississippi among several restauranteurs (her father, grandfather, and godfather) (via IMDb). By the time she was 15, she had drafted up a business plan for her own restaurant (no word on whether she ended up using any of that work when she opened up any of the more than 18 restaurants she has since gone on to found), and even while she was studied exercise physiology and biology in college, she continued to pursue her interest in cooking, working in the kitchens of an Italian bistro and a dining club where she prepared classical French cuisine. 

After she had her Bachelor of Science degree in hand, Cora matriculated at The Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York ... at Julia Child's urging. She went on to train with and work for some of the world's most famous chefs, including Americans Anne Rosenzweig and Larry Forgione, and Michelin-starred French chefs Georges Blanc and Roger Verge. Although it might seem like she was always destined to be a chef, Cat Cora told Money she'd have been happy as an actress: "I wanted to be on stage in some way," she said. And she may well have become a star of the stage too since, of her rise to celebrity, she told Money, "I don't think there are any accidents." 

Cat Cora is the mother of six, and it happened unconventionally

Cat Cora has four sons with her ex-wife Jennifer Cora, whom she divorced in 2016 (via Page Six). The sons are Zoran (born 2003), Caje (born 2007), Thatcher Julius (born 2009), and Nash Lemuel (born 2009). As you can see from Thatcher and Nash's birthdates, something unconventional must have been going on, and indeed there was. According to People, Jennifer carried the first three pregnancies, but Cat carried the fourth. 

"The doctor implanted Jennifer and me with each other's eggs," Cat Cora explained in a 2010 interview. "So she gave birth to Caje, but he's my biological child. I carried Nash, but he's Jennifer's biological child." Despite that Caje is Cat's biological child, Cat had to adopt him in order to become his legal parent. Likewise, despite that Nash is Jennifer's biological child, Jennifer had to adopt him in order to become his legal parent. 

Now, Cat Cora is the mother of six boys, since her current wife, Nicole Ehrlich (pictured right, above, with Cat), came into the marriage with two sons of her own (via Us Magazine). Cora affectionately refers to her blended family of eight as "the Wolfpack" (via Facebook).

Cat Cora is happily married now, but her previous marriage was traumatic

Cat Cora married her current wife, Nicole Ehrlich, an award-winning music and music-video producer, on April 21, 2018. "I married the love of my life," she told Us Magazine. "To share our love and commitment to one another, alongside our six sons, was a dream come true." The two began dating in 2017, the year after Cora's divorce from her first wife, Jennifer Cora, was finalized. Jennifer and Cat Cora had been together for 17 years and had four sons together, but at some point things soured, and when they did, they became unbearable, Cat told Page Sixwith Cat comparing Jennifer to serial killer Ted Bundy, and alleging that Jennifer's happiness came "from making Cat miserable."

Starting in 2015, Jennifer began wanting to destroy Cat's life "at any cost," according to Cat (via Page Six), who characterized the domestic discord as "a nightmare that I can't wake up from." In September, 2020, Cat filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against Jennifer, claiming domestic violence. Although the order was denied, the legal wrangling continued. The tumultuous relationship between Cat Cora and her ex-wife, Jennifer, is often described as "troubled."

Cat Cora was arrested for DUI back in 2012

Cat Cora is, in many ways, an admirable person. The President and Founder of Chefs for Humanity (which addresses world hunger) "is well-known for her philanthropic efforts," her website states. In addition to Chefs for Humanity, Cora launched the "Women's Empowerment Culinary Internship Program" in 2018, and President Barack Obama awarded her "The President's Volunteer Service Award for helping to address the most pressing needs in her community and our country and The President's Lifetime Achievement Award for building a stronger nation through her volunteer service."

But no one is perfect, including Cora. On June 17, 2012, she was arrested (mugshot above) for driving while under the influence of alcohol after causing a minor car accident in Santa Barbara, California, according to the Santa Barbara Independent. Thankfully, no one was injured, and subsequently, Cora issued a statement through her publicist that she deeply regretted her choice to drive while under the influence, closing with, "This will never happen again."

Cat Cora is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse

Cat Cora is certainly many things, an accomplished individual who has overcome numerous obstacles over the course of her life. In her memoir, Cooking as Fast as I Can, she revealed for the first time that she was subjected to repeat childhood sexual abuse (via Cat Cora's website). The abuse began at age six and went on until she was 10 or 11, according to Delish, making reference to Cora's book. The perpetrator was a family friend — a member of the family with whom Cora's family spent a weeklong holiday every summer. He was 15 at the start and manipulated Cora into keeping the abuse a secret. 

"When that happens to you at such a young age, you really do feel like you're alone in the world," she told CBS This Morning (via CBS News). But Cora wanted to empower others by telling the "raw and candid" truth, rather than "sugar-coating" her story, saying that she "channeled her childhood trauma as a drive for success."

(If you, or anyone you know, have been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).)