Iron Chef Cat Cora Shares The Best Advice She Ever Got From Julia Child - Exclusive

There's no doubt it takes a whole lot of grit, perseverance, and hard work to become as successful as chef Cat Cora. She's the first female Iron Chef, the first woman accepted to the Culinary Hall of Fame, and has been breaking down barriers in the food industry since the start of her career. But if you ask Cora how she did it, the first thing she'll say is, "I credit it to having great mentors." Those influences include her parents and family, but also an indisputable culinary legend. "Julia Child was an incredible mentor of mine," Cora told Mashed. "I was very, very lucky and blessed and grateful to have known her and gotten really amazing advice from her and spent time with her."

That's a story too good to go unheard, so Mashed got the inside details. In an exclusive interview, Cora shared some of the best guidance she ever got from Julia Child, and how it has shaped her life and career ever since.

A meeting with Julia Child helped fuel Cat Cora's culinary passion

The way Cat Cora puts it, Julia Child was a big influence on her life before she even met her, and she played a big role in Cora's decision to pursue a career as a chef. It was the opportunity to meet Child that became a turning point for Cora. "Before I even went to culinary school, I saw that she was visiting Natchez, Mississippi. She was on a book tour, and I said to my mom and my grandmother and my dad, 'We have to go. Can you take me to Natchez? I want her to sign my book. I want to meet her,' " Cora told Mashed. 

She says that she managed to find some time to talk one on one with Child at the book signing, and gain some insight from her, "and that just started a friendship that really went on until she moved to Santa Barbara, where I now have a home, and so there was a very full circle moment, if you will." Cora says that over the course of the friendship, she got a lot of sage wisdom from Child, but above all, "one of the biggest things that she ever told me was...follow your aspirations, follow your passion."

Cat Cora says Julia Child taught her the power of paying it forward

Julia Child remains such a beloved and revered figure in the culinary world, not just because she taught so many of us how to master a coq a vin and tarte tatin – or at least gave us the courage to try. Child was also known for her quiet determination and her dedicated passion to her craft. She loved food and cooking (and butter!), and she loved sharing it with the world and using her success to help others as well, something else she imparted on chef Cat Cora. 

Cora told Mashed "the one thing that I've always taken forward is that she said, 'Always pay it forward. Whatever comes to you, pay that forward. Whatever gratitude you have and any blessings you get, pay that forward to someone ... like I'm doing for you right now, do that. That's all I ask. I'm going to mentor you, but I want you to always promise me that you'll pay it forward to someone else as well.' And so I've always done that."

That attitude of paying it forward is what propelled Cora to pursue all the different charity and service projects she's led over the years. "We have a mentorship program...once a year, where we find an aspiring chef. We really focus on empowering women and young girls," Cora explained. She also "started Chefs for Humanity 17 years ago...a charity that does emergency feeding relief. We were actually the first one that was chef-driven." 

Beyond that, Cora says she's dedicated to helping future chefs however she can.