Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: Cooking As Fast As I Can A Chef’s Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness by Cat Cora


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Remarkably candid, compulsively readable, renowned chef Cat Cora’s no-holds-barred memoir on Southern life, Greek heritage, same sex marriage, and the meals that have shaped her memories.
Before she became a celebrated chef, Cathy Cora was just a girl from Jackson, Mississippi, where days were slow and every meal was made from scratch. Her passion for the kitchen started in her home, where fresh feta and Greek olives filled the kitchen. She spent her days internalizing the dishes that would form the cornerstone of her cooking philosophy incorporating her Greek heritage and Southern upbringing—from crispy fried chicken and honey-drenched biscuits to spanakopita. But outside the kitchen, Cat’s life was volatile.
In Cooking as Fast as I Can, Cat Cora reveals, for the first time, coming-of-age experiences from early childhood sexual abuse to the realities of life as a lesbian in the deep South. She shares how she found her passion in the kitchen and went on to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and apprentice under Michelin star chefs in France. After her big break as a co-host on the Food Network’s Melting Pot, Cat broke barriers by becoming the first-ever female Iron Chef.
By turns epic and intimate, in Cooking as Fast as I Can Cat Cora finds courage and redemption in the dark truths of her past, captured in fluid, clarion prose. She chronicles how she found solace in the kitchen and work, and how her passion for cooking helped her to overcome hardships and ultimately find happiness at home and became a wife and a mother to four boys. Above all, Cat demonstrates the grit and grace it takes to achieve your dreams.

MY TAKE:
I first saw Cat Cora on Iron Chef America, which I only started watching after learning that Chef Masaharu Morimoto was on it.

In Cooking As Fast As I Can A Chef’s Story of Family, Food, and Forgiveness, we learn more about Cat Cora's childhood and relationships, how she became a chef, and how she ventured into television.

Before reading this book, I already admired her. After reading this book, I respect her even more. She has had some difficult times in her life, particularly the abuse she suffered as a child, but she came out of it even stronger. Her drive to be better as a chef was inspiring, even though I have no desire to actually be a professional chef. As for her ability to juggle and fulfill the many career opportunities that came her way was amazing. I was exhausted just reading about it.

The thing with biographies and memoirs is, even if your life is interesting, if it's not well-written, the reader's attention will eventually wander and they may start to get bored. That didn't happen here. The pacing was perfect, and the tone and flow of the story allowed me to learn more about Cat and hear her thoughts without feeling like she was a friend who just wouldn't shut up about her life. This might be the first memoir in a long time that I was actually eager to get back to whenever I had to stop reading it for one reason or another.

A few other things that I liked about the book were reading about the food she cooked, her experiences in the industry as a female chef, as well as reading about her interactions with other chefs, famous or not. I now like Chef Morimoto even more after reading about what he did for Chef Cora's team during the filming of Iron Chef America.

Now, not all of the stories put Chef Cora in a positive light. She's very upfront about the meaner things she's done, as well as the moments she's not proud of. The way it's delivered is sort of no-nonsense, much like what I expected of her, and it made me like her even more.

Thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:

  1. There's never a dull moment.
  2. You learn a lot about what it's like to study at the Culinary Institute of America, as well as what it's like to be a female professional chef in the '00s up to now. 
  3. It's fun to read about the famous chefs she knows and has interacted with at some point.

THE BAD:

  1. The food descriptions will make you hungry, so it's probably a good idea to have a snack on hand while reading. 

READ IT IF:

  1. If you dream of becoming a chef.
  2. If you're a fan of Chef Cat Cora.
  3. If you enjoy reading memoirs. 

RATING:
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