Iron 'Cue 

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On Iron Chef America, Cat Cora and her co-stars create gourmet meals in one hour based around a mystery ingredient revealed at the show's beginning. But in real life, the (at present) very-pregnant Jackson, Mississippi, native is happy to dine on Southern comfort food.

She'll be making an appearance at Macy's in Oak Court Mall on Thursday to demonstrate recipes from her new CCQ (that stands for Cat Cora's 'Cue) restaurant inside a Macy's in Costa Mesa, California. And she'll sign copies of her cookbook, Cooking from the Hip.

Flyer: What's been the most challenging secret ingredient to work with on Iron Chef?

You have to make the ingredient the star of the dish. How do you make a chunk of butter the star? That's a lot of work.

You and your partner are both pregnant. Have you had any strange food cravings?

I've been craving more spicy and savory things than I have sweet things. I haven't gone into the whole sweet craving. But I do have the occasional cupcake craving, and I have to have a cupcake like right then. Mostly, it's been weird combinations, like pickles with cottage cheese and crackers. I could eat spicy food every single meal, and I'm talking fire-engine spicy.

What's the premise for your new restaurant, CCQ? All the barbecue is engrained in the traditional Southern way of making barbecue — the low and slow cooking with lots of different woods. But it's also got global flair. I have sauces from all over the world. At the Q Bar, diners can customize their barbecue with sauces from Asia and Argentina. We plan on expanding and franchising CCQ throughout the U.S.

Macy's Presents Chef Cat Cora, Thursday, April 30th, 6 p.m., Macy's Oak Court (Upper Level). RSVP: 766-4146.

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