From the acclaimed first female Iron Chef, a heartfelt memoir of a loving family, a passion for food, and the challenges of career and personal life.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Cora blazed a trail for women in a field dominated by men, joining a cadre of celebrity chefs with cookbooks, TV shows, and food and cookware brands. The author describes an idyllic childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, building forts with her brothers in the “fairy-tale piney woods” behind their house. Cora, whose grandfather owned a restaurant, comes by her love of cooking naturally. From “Grandmom Alma,” who came to take care of the family while Cora’s mother was away getting her doctorate, Cora learned to make the creamiest of cheesecakes. Her parents had a passion for food and entertaining, serving such dishes as her father’s Greek kota kapama. This near-perfect childhood was marred when a son of family friends sexually abused her. The abuse stopped when her parents found out, but it was years before they acknowledged the deep trauma it caused, thinking she was young and would get over it. Instead, she was haunted by guilt and shame well into her adult life. Cora draws readers into her world with frank, conversational writing. What the prose lacks in style is overcome by the strength of her story. She recounts her family’s support but also their fears for her when she came out as a lesbian in the conservative South. Driven and ambitious, she went from culinary school to apprenticeships at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and from sous and executive chef positions in increasingly prestigious restaurants to a Food Network regular. Career demands took a toll on her personal life. Along with success came some heartache, until she found a balance with her spouse and their four sons, realizing at last that she didn’t have to be perfect.
A disarmingly candid look at the highs, lows, and true grit of a culinary star.