Cat Cora knows a thing or two about family dinner. The celebrity chef is well-known for breaking all kinds of glass ceilings in the culinary world — she was the first female winner of Iron Chef and the first woman to be inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame. She’s opened dozens of restaurants over the course of her career, authored several cookbooks as well as a memoir, and hosted food shows like “Around the World in 80 Plates” on Bravo. Most recently, she became a judge on “Family Food Fight” on ABC, in which different families compete against each other to make the best meal.
Incidentally, Cora also has six sons with her wife, Nicole. So when it comes to family suppers, Cora knows what she’s talking about.
The importance of sharing a meal with the family is well-documented. Eating together as a family can promote healthier eating habits in children, foster better communication among families, improve family dynamics, and show kids their parents value them individually, according to Stanford Children’s Health.
When asked why family dinners are important to her, Cora says it’s a time for her family to bond and create memories and traditions. “We go around the table and each take turns talking about our day, what we are grateful for. There is no technology allowed during supper time; we all put away our phones and just talk to each other,” she says in an interview with Mediaplanet.
But as anyone who’s ever tried it can attest, getting the whole family together for a home-cooked meal is not easy, especially with a schedule as packed as Cora’s and six boys to feed. It’s worth it, though, Cora says, even if it’s only once or twice a week. Another thing that helps, she says, is cooking together. As a judge on “Family Food Fight”, Cora says seeing the families cook together reminded her of her own family growing up, and how her parents taught her and her brothers the importance of cooking together. “And they are so close and loving,” she says of the show’s contestants. “That is the power of what food and cooking can do. It unites us all like nothing else.”
It’s a principle she brings to her own kitchen with her kids. She remembers cooking with her parents and her grandmother growing up, which inspired her passion for cooking at a young age. Now, she says, “My wife and I cook with our kids all the time, whether it’s grilling on the barbecue, making chicken koto kapama, or other family recipes.”
Her wife loves to bake everything from sweets to Challah bread, and Cora says they all love to bake together, especially during the holidays. “It’s so heartwarming that our kids really enjoy being in the kitchen with us.”
The family that cooks together, stays together, Cora explains. But even if not everybody in the family is great in the kitchen, making time for dinner together is always worth it. “Turn off all technology, including your own, and give your family your undivided attention for one hour, and it will be one of the best gifts you can give them.”