Star Chef Cat Cora Paid $2,386 to Stay Out of Jail After Her DUI Arrest: ‘This Will Never Happen Again’

Chef Cat Cora is well known on the Food Network. She’s blazed trails as the first woman Iron Chef, and she built a restaurant empire. But behind the scenes, Cora has had her share of struggles. She went through a difficult divorce from her wife of 17 years, and she coped with some painful fallout from the end of that relationship. 

Another event that threatened this star chef’s future was the night she was cited for a DUI. But she managed to turn things around after that night, and these days she’s living the life she always wanted. 

Cat Cora’s rise to stardom

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According to Money, when Cora was growing up in Mississippi, she knew she’d be on screen someday. 

“If I wasn’t a chef, I’d be an actress. I wanted to be on stage in some way,” she said. 

After getting an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology and nutrition, she turned her focus to cooking. She studied at New York’s famed Culinary Institute of America, then went to France to cook in elite restaurants. In the late ’90s, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to open a restaurant with the well-known chef Michael Chiarello. 

When a friend invited her to appear on his local TV show, Cora saw an opportunity to show the emerging Food Network what she could do. She sent a tape of her appearance to network executives, and they responded by offering her guest appearances on their programs. Just a few months later, in 2001, she was offered a job co-hosting Melting Pot with Rocco DiSpirito. 

Soon she had a book deal and was signed to appear in a commercial. Cora was on her way. 

Her ‘very important lesson’

Chef Cat Cora
Chef Cat Cora | Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

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Cora’s career continued to grow. According to Today, she became an Iron Chef, and she hosted a show on Bravo, called Around the World in 80 Plates. Then in 2012, she made a choice that could have destroyed it all.

On June 17, Cora was driving home when she rear-ended another vehicle. She was driving at a low rate of speed, and no one was hurt. However, when the police arrived, the other driver informed them that she believed Cora had been drinking.

She admitted to having had three bottles of beer, but her blood-alcohol level was .19, over two times the legal limit. She was given a DUI citation and taken to a sobering center for the night. 

“I deeply regret my decision to drive that evening after my designated driver became unavailable,” she said shortly after the incident. “I learned a very important lesson from this experience and take full accountability for my actions. This will never happen again.”

When she appeared in court, she agreed to attend nine months of DUI school. In return, she was given three years of probation, fined $2,386, and a 120-day jail sentence. The jail time was suspended, as long as she completed the other requirements. 

Cat Cora’s life today

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In the years since the DUI, Cora has kept her promise. Mashed reports that besides her non-profit foundation, Chefs for Humanity, and her work with Michelle Obama on her “Let’s Move!” initiative, she has built an impressive empire.

She continues to appear on the Food Network and has opened 18 restaurants around the world. She’s also written a children’s book, three cookbooks, and a memoir. 

Last year, Cora partnered with Home Bistro to create a line of healthy, ready-to-eat meals for the home delivery service. According to GQ, the selection places Home Bistro in the top 10 in their category. Cora has also remarried, and she and her wife, Nicole Ehrlich, have six sons all together. It seems that she has indeed learned her lesson.