Bravo’s latest cooking competition, Around the World in 80 Plates (premiering May 9), is like Top Chef meets Amazing Race meets Survivor, “except better than all three combined,” says host Cat Cora. Here, the Iron Chef America champ—and “any flavor of ice cream” aficionado—dishes to TIME.
Presumably, you tasted at least 80 plates during filming. Which was the grossest?
Kidney pie in London. Definitely. It was the first competition, the chefs went out drinking the night before, and they didn’t clean or cook the kidneys very well. It was pretty bad.
What did it taste like?
Um, the stuff you can imagine goes through kidneys.
Ugh. Sorry you had to endure that.
Thanks. It was a lot of like, ‘Hold your nose!’ and ‘Bring some more beer!’
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Besides London, obviously, where was the coolest place you got to travel?
Chiang Mai, Thailand; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Marakesh, Morocco. Marakesh was amazing—so different and exotic and mysterious. And the market [where contestants bought ingredients] had a kind of dangerous allure. There were monkeys and spices and even cobras.
Did you eat the cobras?
No, we did not eat the cobras. Definitely almost stepped on a few, though.
Actually, wait—I don’t know if we ate cobra. There’s no tellling. They said it was chicken, but it coulda been cobra. It all tastes like chicken!
So, let’s say you faced Top Chef host Tom Colicchio in a cook-off. Who would win?
I don’t know. That would definitely be a knock-down, drag-out competition.
But he’s never been on Iron Chef.
[laughs] Ok, honestly…I could kick Tom’s ass. No doubt. I have taken on bigger and badder guys than Tom.
You’re already starting Bravo rivalries. Nice.
Yeah. Tom’s a little marshmallow: tough on the outside, ooey-gooey on the inside!
Speaking of marshmallows, what’s your guiltiest food pleasure?
Ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I like ice cream a lot. And I don’t discriminate. I like any flavor of ice cream.
Literally every kind?
Every kind! Yeah, it’s sad.
What about, like, bacon ice cream?
I’ve made bacon ice cream, in [Iron Chef America‘s] Kitchen Stadium. It’s actually really good, especially if you put blueberries on top.
You always knew something crazy was about to go down on Iron Chef when they cut to the ice-cream maker.
Oh, yeah. And the judges, they hated hearing the ice-cream maker, especially if we were working with savory items like pork or fish. They’d cringe. They’d be like, “Why did we sign up for this?!”
So which gig is harder: rapid-fire competition on Iron Chef or world-traveling on 80 Plates?
I’ve done 12 seasons of Iron Chef, and every time I go in, it’s still stressful. And I love that. I love the rush of the competition. It’s really intense, like the Olympics of cooking. But oh my god, getting to travel around the world? This is a dream job.
If our readers could fly to one non-U.S. destination for a meal—or 10 meals!—where should they go?
Bologna, Italy. That’s the city that gave us Parmesan cheese, tortellini, prosciutto—so many things I know and love. [My co-host] Curtis [Stone] and I still remember the incredible truffles we had there, and the bolognese sauce. I’ve been all over Italy, and Bologna was just a beautiful little city, a total surprise.
I’m hungry already.
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