Around the World in 80 Plates- A Conversation with Curtis Stone and Cat Cora

Cat and Curtis at 80 Plates Party in NY
What do you get when you mix "The Amazing Race" with a  "Top Chef"- style competition? Stir in a dashing TV chef who has faced the likes of Donald Trump and the first woman Iron Chef and you have Bravo's Around the World in 80 Plates, premiering tonight, May 9 at 10 PM.  I was fortunate to be included in a media interview session with the hosts, Curtis Stone and Cat Cora to hear their take on this new hybrid cooking competition/travel show. It was a great opportunity, both Curtis and Cat were relaxed and their working chemistry was clear from the beginning of the call.

Around the World takes 12 chefs from varying backgrounds and experiences and week to week drops them in exotic locations and presents them with a food challenge that will lead to elimination for one of them each week until a winner is crowned. While the hosts are culinary luminaries, and the contestants bring talent and personality to the show, the real star is the exotic international locations from Morocco to London.

Here are the contestants with Cat and Curtis- Having fun already!
Questions during the interview gave a picture not only of what viewers have to look forward to, but the behind the scenes drama, challenges and downright hilarity that is Around the World in 80 Plates.
A big focus of questions was concerning the challenges of working in so many varied cultures.  Cat talked about how some of the more "street-smart" chefs used that experience to their advantage,

"Like I was saying, getting through the cities versus, you know, some of the more formally trained chefs. And I think really it came down to strategy really, you know, who was - you know, we had a guy (Nookie) who, you know, was - he’s a chef for the Red Sox.

So, you know, this guy is from, you know, the streets and, you know, he definitely was able to maneuver a lot. And, you know, and we had several contestants like that. So that was really interesting to see and watch, you know, throughout the show."

Other discussion about contestants and the competition centered around the Chicago-based contestants John and Gary, and how they dealt with the challenges based on their very different backgrounds and skill sets.Curtis gave his take,

"A great example of the diversity of talent that we have on the show because Gary, you know, his last job I think was working at a sorority house. And, you know, he’s the first to say that he doesn’t have the chops of some of the other chefs in terms of their culinary expertise.
But as Cat mentioned, he speaks four or five languages and he’s traveled the world and extremely street smart. And, you know, he can get by on his smile."
Another popular topic for questions was favorites- favorite locations, favorite dishes.  Cat and Curtis went back and forth a lot, and clearly there were reasons other than food for their perspectives.

Cat - "That’s a hard one. I mean, you know, I think for me I mean I definitely - I’m in love with the Thai people and the Thai food and Thailand and, you know, I’ve said that over and over although Morocco was pretty amazing as well."
Curtis -  "We had a lot of fun in Thailand Cat, let’s be honest. You know, it’s one of those..."
Cat -  "And it’s a really fun place to go out in and have a good time."

One topic they definitely agreed on was a bit surprising.  When asked what locale presented the greatest challenge,  They both answered that London was very challenging.

Curtis Stone:   Strangely I think London presented...
Cat Cora:         Yeah, I think I was going to say.
Curtis Stone:   ...the really big challenge.
Cat Cora:         The first - I think London, you know, the very first show was really a big challenge for them.
 I think as, you know, as the first show it was, you know, they’re trying to find their footing and, you know, the food in England and particularly this - the gastro pubs and this new style of food that’s happening in London at least, you know, it’s a little bit new to us, is - it was challenging for them.
And the different ingredients.
Curtis Stone:   But then, you know, I think back to Morocco Cat when the guys were in Marrakesh and they were trying to run through the market and, you know, there...
Cat Cora:         Yeah. That was pretty rough because yeah, the market...
Curtis Stone:   The monkeys.
Cat Cora:         Yeah.
Curtis Stone:   And snakes. And, you know, people hitting them.
Cat Cora:         Cobras and yeah, that was - I don’t know. That might have been the most challenging. Trying to dodge cobras and monkeys that jump on your head is - and trying to - while you’re trying to grab spices is a little bit - that might be a little more challenging...
Curtis Stone:   Yeah.
Cat Cora:         ...than trying to figure out how to make kidney pie.

Of course the most exciting moment for me was the opportunity to talk directly to Cat and Curtis for their perspectives on their experiences and working together. I started by asking Curtis who has done shows as varied as Take Home Chef, Top Chef Masters and Celebrity Apprentice.  He replied:
"It’s really hard to stack another show up next to it. You know, when I was very young I got my first opportunity in television with a show called Surfing the Menu and it was myself and another buddy who - we traveled around Australia and we surfed and cooked and drank too much wine.

And we had a lot of fun. And I’d always dreamt about getting another show that was a little bit similar to that. And, you know, when this show sort of raised its head I was of course super excited about it because it was travel and the incredible experiences that you get to see and face.

A young(er) Curtis in Surfing the Menu!
And then when they announced Cat as the co-host of it I was just, you know, blown away because she’s just like me, an absolute foody and, you know, we share a lot of common interests. And it was just the dream job. I can’t explain it in any other way.
You know, we literally went to ten different countries and ate some unbelievable food. And I wasn’t joking when I said Cat and I were riding elephants in Thailand.You know, we’d get a little bit of time off here and there and we’d run around in adventure like two little kids. It was so much fun."
Cat agreed,  "It was. It was really - it really is a dream job. I mean we’re lucky, so lucky."

Since so many of my fellow food bloggers and home cooks are female,  I asked Cat how she accounted for the fact that while in the home, most cooks are women while in the restaurant world, women are the minority, and she provided a unique perspective:
"Well I mean it’s amazing because, you know, if you go back in time I mean a lot of, you know, the three star Michelin chefs that, you know, are in France, you know, that I’ve, you know, I’ve cooked with a couple when I was younger and did an apprenticeship.

They were all taught by their mothers. I mean they were running the restaurants. And then they all got handed over to their, you know, sons and the sons turned them into, you know, more of a bigger business and a brand and the whole thing.

And I think that’s really when men, you know, men really in that second - that next generation really took over restaurants and really began to make them a business, a true business, you know, with Michelin stars the, you know, came along and, you know, really began to, you know, monetize it and really make it into something.

I think that is, you know, really where that started and I think it just continued. And that’s in a lot of businesses if you look around. I mean that’s what happens. And I think what’s happening now is that - and so of course there were fewer women because it was such a male dominated industry...

I mean I came on a cusp of really where I was just on the cusp of where women were a little bit allowed and - to come and do apprenticeships. I mean I had eight rejection letters from eight three star Michelin chefs before I got two from George Blanc and (Roger Roget).

So I mean I almost didn’t, you know, so I got eight, you know, rejected eight times before I got two acceptance letters to do apprenticeships. So that just shows you - and that was, you know, 15, 16 years ago or a little bit longer maybe....

I mean I think, you know, reality television and these competitions are helping a tremendous amount to get women inspired to, you know, take that leap and get into the kitchens. And yes, you can get into the kitchen and be an executive chef.

You don’t have to be a pastry chef although that’s a great profession as well. But there are other options. And...I think women are starting to find their power and to do that."
Of course,  I had to take a risk and ask a very serious question- Who did Cat have more fun working with- Curtis or Kermit.

Cat Cora:         Oh. That’s a hard one. I’m sorry Curtis. Let’s see, Kermit or Curtis? That’s tough.

Curtis Stone:   It’s almost the same.

Cat Cora:         I’m going - they’re one and the same. I have to say it’s a draw. I just can’t choose. I can’t choose.

Cat Cora:         Okay. Thank you. That’s funny. Kermit or Curtis? One’s tall blond and handsome and one’s short green and, you know, like eats flies.

Curtis Stone:   Like I said, we’re one and the same.

Cat Cora:               One and the same.

Clearly, these are two people who enjoy what they do and how excited am I that tonight, and for the next several weeks, they are inviting us along  to go Around the World in 80 Plates?  You should come along too... no passport needed!


I have heard of this show before. Unfortunately I never got the chance to see it.
Anonymous said…
That looks really good.

Food search
kambing said…
im hungry.. mmmm dream it
Mistie said…
One of the things on my bucket list is to eat in at least 10 countries!! How neat.
milecar said…
Paul Wasserman–son of French food dictionary wine importer Becky–has just launched EatDrink, a company that sells gorgeous reprints of old wine books like 1927's Bouquet (above) by G.B. Stern, which follows a couple's journey through the vineyards of France.