Kent State student trains with celebrity chef

Ashley Foster / Cat Cora (2)

Hannah Kelley

A Kent State student was offered the opportunity of a lifetime when she interned for celebrity chef Cat Cora at the chef’s home in California this summer.

Ashley Foster, a senior hospitality management major, was offered to train with Cora after she introduced herself to the chef at the World Conference for Club Management Association of America (CMAA) in March 2018.

“I started watching Chef Cora when I was probably 10 or 11 on Food Network,” Foster said. “I would see her on a few of the shows and in magazines, but I never even dreamt of meeting her.”

Cora is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who is known for being the first female chef to work at the highest level of dining in France, as well as being the first female to earn the “Iron Chef America” title.

Foster was inspired to talk to Cora by the CEO of the conference, Jeffrey Morgan. During his opening speech, he told the audience at the conference to not leave until they each meet three people.

“To me, that meant that I needed to meet Cat,” Foster said.

After working up the courage, Foster introduced herself to the celebrity chef outside of the conference center in San Francisco.

Foster met the chef and her wife, Nicole Ehrlich, who is also the CEO of Cat Cora Inc. Foster talked with the couple, took a picture and gave Cora her business card.

Less than an hour after Foster’s encounter with Cora, she received an email from the celebrity chef that led to an internship in Santa Barbara. The couple insisted Foster stay in their home during her stay.  

“She broke so many glass ceilings in the industry,” Foster said. “Males used to populate the industry. She was the first after numerous letters and many, many times of being turned down.”

Cora and her wife told Foster that her bravery to approach them inspired them to create a summer internship program they would call the Women’s Empowerment Culinary Internship.

Every summer, they will open their home to a female intern like Foster and show her how they run their business, Mesa Burger, a restaurant in Santa Barbara.

Foster completed the internship in July.

“They’re the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet,” Foster said. “They are kind, supportive and not only support each other and their business, but they support their kids. They’re very inspiring in that regard.”

Foster grew up watching her grandmother cook, which contributed to her love for the kitchen. She said she wanted to be a chef since third grade after eating sandwiches at a party at school.

“I know it’s weird to remember, but they were some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had,” Foster said. “I remember saying, ‘I want to be a chef. I want to cook. And that’s the only thing I want to do.’”

Foster is well on her way to reaching that goal.

Since being at Kent State, Foster has brought her passion for the kitchen to a club she started called “Chefology.”

“We were sitting in class during the fall of 2017, and I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a food club?’ There’s a club for Pokémon and line-dancing. There should be one.”

Chefology is a food club that teaches students with a love for cooking how to prepare dishes, as well as the history of food. The club is advised by Kent State hospitality instructor Anthony Hamilton.

After graduation, Foster’s plan is to work for Cora at Mesa Burger until September. In the fall, she will continue her degree at the Culinary Institute of America where many world-renowned chefs graduate from, including Cora herself.

Foster said her dream is to be on TV and have a show herself one day.

“My long-term goal is to be on Food Network or Travel Channel,” Foster said. “I want to be like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern and travel and eat strange food and learn about cultures.”

Foster will graduate in May 2019 after only three years at Kent State.

 Hannah Kelley is the dean of students and greek life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].