[caption id="attachment_3199" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Iron Chef Cat Cora, and me"] [/caption] Back in October, I met the inspiring Cat Cora for her launch of Cat Cora cookware by Starfrit, available exculsively at Walmart stores across Canada. Cora is a stickler for eco-friendliness, and ensures a charitable element is a part of each product. If you need last-minute gifts for the picky foodie on your list, here are two I think are great: Maple Wood Butcher Block, $69.94 This block is made from 100% Canadian maple recycled flooring pieces, and assembled in a small Quebec factory that employs 200 developmentally delayed adults who wouldn't otherwise have means. This board sits above the counter and can breathe, so it won't get moldy underneath. Hard Anodized Fry Pan, $25 Her frying pans are hard anodized, meaning they are stick-resistant without the toxic spray coating that eventually wears off into your food. And notice the long handle - it keeps hands away from the heat and also slim enough for people with smaller hands. "I'm smaller, y'know," Cora explains in her Southern accent. "But I can pick this long handle up with two hands. I usually need to do that with a stir-fry." And, of course I took this opportunity to bend Cat Cora's ear on how the rest of us can develop cooking skills like hers. Q. How do you develop a palate like a chef? Cat Cora: Pick one thing you're really good at, and experiment with it. The best thing to use is a roasted chicken - that's what they make young chefs do in culinary school because it's easy and forgiving. Experiment with seasonings like curry, fennel, citrus - mix it up! Then you'll build up your senses, your brain, your nose and your palate. You figure out what you like, what you react to, and what you absolutely love. And the younger you start developing your palate, the better. Get your kids eating herbs and spices so they'll have great palates when they're adults, but it's never too late to start. Like I said, practice on the chicken. Q. What are some Iron Chef tips you can give to amateur home cooks hoping to enter a competition? Cat Cora: Just tune everything else out. If you don't know what to do, put your head down into your food and just start prepping something. And taste as you go along! The bottom line is it doesn't matter how pretty your dish looks if the taste is off. -- young chefs always make that big mistake. Don't worry about making it pretty and then trying to find the taste later, if you do that you'll fail miserably! Q. What's happening now in your charity, Chefs for Humanity? Cat Cora: We just donated $150,000 to the United Nations World Food Program for their SAFE stoves initiative that benefits women. Most developing nations have open fires in their places of residence with no ventilation -- a major health hazard for women. Also, women and girls are the foragers of the world. They are the ones to collect firewood, but unfortunately that's when a lot of sexual assault happens. We try to avoid this with SAFE stoves, they work independently of firewood. My charity started SAFE stoves in Haiti and we'll move on to other places. Q. Our Facebook fans wanted to know -- what's in Cat Cora's turkey stuffing? Cat Cora: [laughs] We do caramelized mushrooms, lots of fresh rosemary and oregano, garlic, and good bread that we dice up into big bite-sized pieces. I don't like my stuffing mushy, I like pieces I can bite into. I make homemade cranberry sauce that I like putting on top of my turkey stuffing, too. I also like to take the stuffing out of the turkey and brown it a little so it gets crispy on top. Just a few minutes on 400˚F to 450˚F. What's in your turkey stuffing? Is it like Cat Cora's, or different?