In Bravo’s latest culinary competition show, Around the World in 80 Plates, 12 up-and-coming chefs crisscross the world, battling each other in challenges of both skill and strength. (Yes, it takes a certain type of strength to scarf down excessive amounts of kidney pie.) Here, co-host Cat Cora (the Iron Chef America star-cookbook author-restaurateur-philanthropist shares duties with Australian celeb chef Curtis Stone) dishes on the action-packed show, reveals her ideal family meal, and more.
Q: How would you define Around the World in 80 Plates?
A: The competition is very much like Top Chef, but in a fresher sense. The challenge is in the style of Amazing Race, and the elimination part is Survivor. I think someone even threw in American Idol. It’s such a new take on a competition show that also there’s nothing like it out there.
Q: In the first episode, which takes place in London, the contestants stuff their faces with black pudding and chug ale. This sounds like it doesn’t require much skill…
A: In this challenge, it was more about them trying the food because the food at gastropubs is so different, with the black puddings and the kidney pies. You have to taste it to understand it. But as we go along, the courses get more intense, and are more about skill.
Q: What destination posed the biggest challenge?
A: Thailand, because they had to plant rice patties, and that was tough. And running through the crowded city markets on tiny little streets with these big food carts was insane. Also, rolling giant wheels of Parmesan through Bologna.
Q: What were a few of your favorite stops?
A: Thailand. Chiang Mai, in particular, was great. The people, the cuisine, and the culture are all incredible. Thailand has so many different curries, gingers, peppers, chilies, cilantros, lemongrass, all of the little limes. And the people are so kind and calm. I also loved Morocco; it felt very mysterious.
Q: Moving away from the show, what are a few of your most memorable meals?
A: I had an incredible lunch at Alain Ducasse in Paris years ago. I also had a wonderful lunch in Venice, but I can’t remember the name of the place. It was a rainy day, and I had a big bowl of these tiny clams that you can only get there and a glass of local wine.
Q: What’s a typical dinner at home for you and your family?
A: Going down and getting a great piece of fish from the harbor in Santa Barbara, and grilling it on the patio for fish tacos. Just keeping it simple.
A: I was just named the godmother of a brand-new ship for Oceania Cruises. I’m heading to Barcelona to christen the ship and take a cruise with my family around the Mediterranean.
Around the World in 80 Plates premieres Wednesday, May 9, at 10 p.m. EST on Bravo.
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.