Lagasse, Emeril

Lagasse, Emeril
▪ 2004

      By 2003 Emeril Lagasse was perhaps the most famous chef in the United States. His name was associated with nine restaurants in five U.S. cities, seven cookbooks that had sold more than two million copies, two daily cable television shows, and his own lines of food and cooking merchandise. Lagasse's skills in the kitchen and his engaging, boisterous personality were both instrumental in his success in building a business empire. Loyal viewers of his shows became familiar with his shouts of “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!” as he wowed them with his latest recipes.

      Lagasse was born on Oct. 15, 1959, in Fall River, Mass., where by the age of seven he had begun to experiment in the kitchen, begging his mother to teach him how to make vegetable soup. Lagasse made several attempts before he got the soup right, and he declared that even in those first lessons, his mother taught him to cook with passion and patience. By his own admission, Lagasse was “a weird kid” because of his fascination with food. During his childhood he also excelled at music, playing percussion in a youth orchestra. When the time came to attend college, he turned down a full scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music so that he could study cooking. He graduated from Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., with a degree in culinary arts in 1978.

      Following further studies in France and a series of cooking jobs in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, Lagasse landed in New Orleans. There he succeeded Paul Prudhomme as executive chef at Commander's Palace in 1981. Nine years later Lagasse opened his first establishment, Emeril's Restaurant, in New Orleans, and two years after that he opened a second one, Nola Restaurant, in the city's French Quarter. In 1993 he published his first cookbook, the best-selling Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking. In 1993 Lagasse's star really began to rise when he became a cable television personality, joining the Food Network. He hosted two programs, Emeril Live, which won a Cable Ace award in 1997, and The Essence of Emeril, which also proved to be extremely popular. In addition, he made regular appearances on ABC's Good Morning America and starred in a short-lived 2001 NBC sitcom, Emeril.

      Lagasse and his restaurants received a number of awards. The James Beard Foundation named him Best Southeast Regional Chef in 1991. Esquire magazine and other publications heaped awards on his restaurants. He attributed his success to the fact that he made everything from scratch, including andouille, ham, and bacon from his own hogs. “This is how you do it,” he told People magazine with characteristic forthrightness. “We're not building a rocket ship here. We're making chicken stock!”

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ American chef
born Oct. 15, 1959, Fall River, Mass., U.S.

      American celebrity chef, author, and television personality, who by the early 21st century was one of the most recognizable chefs in the United States, known as much for his cooking as for his energetic personality and catchphrases.

      As a child, Lagasse was fascinated with food. By age seven he was begging his mother to teach him how to make vegetable soup. He made several attempts before he got the soup right, and he declared that even in those first lessons, his mother taught him to cook with passion and patience. During his childhood he also excelled at music, playing percussion in a youth orchestra. He later turned down a full scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music so that he could study cooking. In 1978 he graduated from Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., with a degree in culinary arts.

      Following further studies in France and a series of cooking jobs in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia, Lagasse moved to New Orleans. There he succeeded Paul Prudhomme as executive chef at Commander's Palace in 1981. Nine years later Lagasse opened his first establishment, Emeril's Restaurant, in New Orleans, and in 1992 he launched NOLA Restaurant in the city's French Quarter. Lagasse's restaurants received a number of awards, and in 1991 he was named best southeast regional chef by the James Beard Foundation.

      In 1993 Lagasse attracted an even wider following. That year he published his first cookbook, the best-selling Emeril's New New Orleans Cooking, and Lagasse became a cable television personality, joining the Food Network. He hosted two programs, Emeril Live and The Essence of Emeril, both of which proved extremely popular. Lagasse's skills in the kitchen as well as his engaging, boisterous personality—highlighted by his catchphrases “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!”—were instrumental to the shows' success. In addition to the Food Network, he also made regular appearances on ABC's Good Morning America and starred in a short-lived 2001 NBC sitcom, Emeril. Lagasse subsequently opened restaurants in several U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, Nev., Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga. His books have sold several million copies. He also developed his own line of food and cooking merchandise.

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Universalium. 2010.

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