Fans of Iron Chef America will remember Cat Cora for two reasons: one, for her amazing culinary skills. Two, for being the only female chef on an all-male line up. Now, Chef Cat, who has several television shows, cookbooks, and restaurants under her belt, has traversed the seas to set up her first restaurant in Asia – Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora.
Located inside the S.E.A. Aquarium alongside the Open Ocean Habitat, the restaurant will be using sustainably sourced seafood which echoes the Marine Life Park’s mission of ensuring a healthy future for vibrant and sustainable marine, coastal, and freshwater ecosystems. You’ll get to marvel at the tranquil marine life while you tuck into your meal.
We jumped at the chance for a one-on-one with the poised, friendly chef*.
1. Hi Chef! Your family was involved in the restaurant business. How did that influence your choice of a career as a chef?
I grew up around great cooks, which greatly influenced my desire for cooking. I started off super young and I can remember baking cookies with mom at the age of five. Over the years it slowly transitioned into familiarizing myself with Greek Mediterranean cooking, working and experimenting with ingredients like grape leaves and phyllo dough. My family was a phenomenal influence; it’s in my blood.
2. What would you say was your big break into the industry?
I would say that getting into television was my big break into the culinary world, especially as a woman. It’s still a largely male-dominated industry, and before the 1990s when television programmes like the Food Network didn’t exist, it was harder for female visibility in the industry. But with such programmes today it certainly broke some barriers.
3. You’ve been actively involved in the Iron Chef programme. What did you learn from there?
Perseverance, to continue no matter what. It helped me build both my culinary skills and character, and it made me realize that I have what it takes to do what I’m doing now.
4. You own and operate a few restaurants in the States. Between them, filming for TV series, your family, and now with this restaurant here at S.E.A. Aquarium, what’s your secret to juggling these commitments?
It’s definitely because I have a great team, both personally and professionally. It takes a village to accomplish something and the credit goes to all these people who help me juggle.
5. With your busy schedule, how often do you think you’ll be at Ocean Restaurant this year?
I’m scheduled to come back another time this year and I’m really excited. I love Singapore, the food events, the food festivals. And even when I’m not at the restaurant I’m always going to be in communication with the team over here.
6. Will we be expecting a new menu or a special dish each time you’re here?
Definitely! And I’ll always be constantly in touch, regardless of whether I’m here or not. We’re hoping to be able to do a lot more, maybe even a tasting menu. There are so many possibilities. It’s important to continue to change, to try new and exciting things.
7. If you’ve tried some of the local dishes and specialities, what’s your favourite?
I had an incredible lunch here at Feng Shui Inn, and there were a few ingredients I’ve never had before, like fish maw, geo-duck (a type of clam), and bird’s nest. And I’m a huge fan of Malay food, it’s so bold and spicy.
8. Can we expect these local flavours in your menu?
Yes; the more I’m immersed into the Singaporean culture, the more I’ll begin to incorporate these flavours. But it will still be a unique experience from what Singaporeans are used to having daily, or what tourists can find here. My style will still be Mediterranean, Californian fresh – light, simple and healthy dishes, using the freshest produce from around the region.
9. What made you decide to partner with Ocean Restaurant?
The very idea of Ocean Restaurant in itself is so spectacular and stunning. Not just the physical beauty of the décor or the marine animals, but the same philosophy that we share: of sustainability coupled with education. That is the footprint that I wanted to leave, and that drew me to Alan (Orreal, RWS Executive Chef) and the team. Plus the standards of quality are high and I know that quality will be upheld even when I’m not here.
10. What do you want guests to remember most about dining at Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora?
The full experience: from walking in, seeing the décor, the service, the food, the nurturing aspect of S.E.A. Aquarium and the culture. It’s not just a restaurant. I would love for them to come in, forget their troubles and the outside world, and walk away saying “wow, that was an amazing experience.” Plus the fact that they’re dining ‘underwater’ – they’re not going to find that experience anywhere else.
*If you’re a huge fan, catch Chef Cat herself at Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora; only from 2 to 7 February 2013.
After the interview Chef Cat very generously gave us a sneak peek of three of her signature dishes, which we will talk about in more detail in the next post. But for now, here are the tantalizing creations that had us drooling.
Sous Vide 48°C Ocean Trout with Sustainable Caviar & Prosecco Pear Crushed Almond, Vine Tomato Jelly & Garden Cress
Sakura Shrimp Risotto with Morel Mushroom Black Truffle Butter Ikura and Seared Hokkaido Scallop
King Salmon with Mandarin-Habanero Glaze, Meyer Lemon Cous Cous & Hot House Cilantro
Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11am-10:30pm (last order at 10pm). For the month of February, try the ‘Cat Cora Experience’, a specially created 5-course set dinner menu at S$158++.
Sous Vide 48°C Ocean Trout
Sustainable Caviar & Prosecco Pear Crushed Almond,
Vine Tomato Jelly and Garden Cress
Sakura Shrimp Risotto
Morel Mushroom-Black Truffle Butter Ikura
& Seared Hokkaido Scallop
Vongole of Manila Clams
with Spicy Fennel Sausage,
Garlic Broth & Toasted Sesame Croutons
Grilled Basque Wagyu Striploin
with Leek Bread Pudding
& Roasted Sesame-Coriander Vegetables
with Mandarin-Habanero Glaze, Meyer Lemon Cous Cous & Hot House Cilantro
‘After Eight’ Mint Variation
Coffee or Tea