by Alex Gonzalez
On a Saturday evening in Grapevine, TX, the realms of film and food collide at the premiere of A Fine Line at the Palace Arts Center. In attendance are several of Dallas’s top women chefs and restaurateurs, including Tiffany Derry (Roots Chicken Shak and TV fame), Uno Immanivong (Red Stix), Casey Doody (Dallas Country Club), Jennifer Basjel (Getting Saucy), Yasmin Wages (Malai Kitchen), and Sara Bintrim (Aramark). Making a special guest appearance is celebrity chef Cat Cora, who is featured in the A Fine Line documentary.
Cora believes documentaries like A Fine Line will start a dialogue about how women in the kitchen can get to a place of equality in our nation’s current climate.
“The Fine Line film is really about how only seven percent of chefs and restaurateurs are women,” Cora says. “Women have always been the central focus of the kitchen. We all learn how to cook from our aunts, our grandmothers and our moms.”
While several notable women chefs appear in the Joanna James-produced documentary, A Fine Line largely focuses on a small town restaurateur named Valerie James and her journey to securing funding for her outpost.
“She is raising kids as a single mom and really wants to own her own restaurant,” Cora says of James. “She has a very hard time getting a loan for a restaurant, which happens a lot with minorities in this country. I’m always about supporting people first and empowering and women. I didn’t come from a lot of money, I’m self made, and I always say to women that if I can do it, you can do it.”
Prior to the film’s screening, Cora is set to work with Chonnie Richey (director) and children from Independence Gardens, a non-profit organization people create better relationships with their natural and built environments. The Come and Eat It program, a division of Independence Gardens, is aimed towards children and teaches them about nutrition, wellness, and cooking.
“They’re going to be teaching me how to make a sushi recipe they came up with,” Cora says of the children in the Come and Eat It program. “It’s a surprise recipe. I don’t know what I’m in store for, except that I know I’m going to learn some pretty cool tips from the kids.”
Cora believes that teaching children how to cook, as well as cultivating self-sufficiency are essential.
“Programs like this not only teach kids about food and nutrition, but they also teach them about their community,” Cora says. “They teach them about leadership, self-esteem, self-worth, and they really give them the self confidence to go out into the world with life skills that they’ll always have.”
Cora and her wife, film producer Nicole Ehrlich, are the parents of six boys, and they each make it a point to reinforce essential life skills as they continue to grow.
“Before you go off to college, you’re going to know how to cook, you’re going to know how to wash your own clothes and sew on a button,” is what Cora and Ehrlich tell their sons regularly.
As a queer woman, Cora has seen her fair share of struggles while navigating the food and hospitality industry, however, she has emerged from her adversities and believes in using her platform and privilege to give back.
“I’ve faced challenges just like everyone else,” Cora says, “but what I took away from that is to always know my worth. I think my mentor Julia Child said it best when she told me to always pay it forward.”
For more information on attending a screening of A Fine Line, visit the website.