June 23, 2016 - Cat Cora walked into the New York City café early into the lunch rush last Wednesday and the line to her new food concept, OLILO by Cat Cora, was already bending around the corner. The first – and only – female Iron Chef met and greeted wide-eyed customers, who were surprised to see the star standing alongside them.
“Wait…Cat Cora’s actually here?”
During her visit, Cat shook hands with fans, posed for selfies, and signed copies of her latest book. The OLILO launch marked the start of our exciting new partnership with the popular Iron Chef. OLILO, a new on-site dining experience, features an inspiring, build-your-own menu that blends proteins with your choices of super greens, grain blends, flatbreads, or even quinoa tabbouleh.
We met up with Cat during the event. She revealed some of her secrets for creating healthy food that tastes great, what drew her to partnering with us, and what customers can expect from OLILO.
Q: Where did the name "OLILO" come from?
Cat Cora: It’s really a play on olio. It’s olive oil, it’s the Mediterranean diet, and it’s health and wellness. That’s what my food represents. We wanted a name that embraced that.
Q: What attracted you to create this partnership with us?
Cat Cora: It was Aramark’s dedication to the highest excellence of quality and their high standards. And that goes right along with my philosophy. Everything I do has to be the highest quality. It has to be executed well and it has to be consistent and it has to be fresh. Aramark has that same attitude. For me, I like to be partnered with like-minded partners who express the same philosophies that I do and do it every day. And that’s what Aramark does.
Q: How does our mission to enrich and nourish lives relate to your own beliefs and commitments to food?
Cat Cora: Speaking about my food and who I am, as a chef and as a person, and as a mom, it’s really in line with their belief and their mission – to enrich and nourish lives. And I’ve done that with my food. I’ve done that by giving back through my charity work. Across all parts of my life, enriching and nourishing lives is of absolute importance to me.
Q: How does OLILO by Cat Cora and the partnership support your vision and focus on eating well?
Cat Cora: Aramark and OLILO really support my mission of eating well and eating good food – gourmet food – that’s healthy and good for you. So you can have a peace of mind about what you’re putting into your body. Overall, that supports my philosophy of mind, body, soul and bringing all those things together around food.
It’s always about fresh ingredients and bringing those foods together that are healthy, but taste good and delicious.
Q: What is unique about OLILO by Cat Cora compared to other concepts you’ve developed?
Cat Cora: I think OLILO really stands out because it’s the way I love to eat every single day. This is a concept people can eat five days a week. It’s a grain and a salad and a protein and a really healthy sauce on top. And toppings that are really healthy for you. So I’ve created this concept with Aramark because it really fits the corporate dining scene and it can fit anywhere on the streets of New York or LA or anywhere else. It’s such a fantastic concept across the board. It’s an everyday dining experience.
Q: What can customers expect from the OLILO by Cat Cora offering?
Cat Cora: Customers can expect freshness and the highest quality of ingredients. We’re very, very goal oriented in making sure we give customers the very best of everything – excellence in service, hospitality. It’s all those things combined. We’re building a culture around OLILO that’s all about freshness and people.
Q: Talk about the role that ingredients and where they come from play in your meals, menus, and concepts.
Cat Cora: I think ingredients are of upmost importance. Sourcing the best ingredients we can find is always our mission in every concept that I do. But Aramark shares that same philosophy.
It’s about building flavor through ingredients. Every single ingredient has to be nourished and has to be perfect to build that incredible dish.
Q: What is your philosophy on making healthy food that tastes good?
Cat Cora: It’s being very conscious of what you’re sourcing, very conscious of the American palette, and very conscious of your own ability and skill to execute techniques that can take gourmet food and make it healthy. That’s what I do every day. It’s what I’ve been doing since I began my career. It’s what I think is going to make OLILO very special and unique.
Q: Where do you find your recipe inspiration?
Cat Cora: I find recipe inspiration from many things – from recipes that I grew up with to other chefs that I follow that I admire. We all share recipes and ideas. It’s about research. It’s about eating a lot of different flavors. Not eating a lot of big portions, but just tasting a lot. It’s really about going out in the world and traveling. Each place I go to, I pick up something that I bring home with me – many ingredients, techniques, spices. That’s where you really get your inspirations.
Q: How can great food experiences improve environments, whether it’s a workplace or event or entertainment?
Cat Cora: I think great food experiences can improve environments and spaces…it makes a world of difference. In corporate arenas, it builds morale. It builds inspiration. It builds productivity and creativity.