Q&A With Chef Emeril Lagasse of Emeril’s Table

Martha has been doing what she’s been doing for a long time. I joined the organization close to I guess four years, almost five years ago. Martha and I have a very, very healthy relationship personally and work-wise as well in the environment. I think the thing that really stands out that makes it a great partnership is that Martha is Martha and Emeril’s Emeril and Emeril’s not trying to be Martha or Martha’s not trying to be Emeril. _Chef Emeril Lagasse: Emeril’s Table

Chef Emeril Lagasse: Emeril’s Table
TV personality, Chef

Credits: Food correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America hosted over 2000 shows on the Food Network | Cooking with Emeril | column in Everyday Food magazine | Author of 15 inspiring cookbooks including Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking, Sizzling Skillets and other One-Pot Wonders
By: Daedrian McNaughton & Judith Wallace

Chef Emeril Lagasse Emeril’s Table, premieres Monday, September 26 on Hallmark Channel at 11 am Eastern.

“Emeril’s Table” is produced for Hallmark Channel by Emeril Primetime Productions in association with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. Martha Stewart and Fran Brescia-Coniglio are executive producers. The series is directed by Scott Preston.


You must be excited about your new project, Emeril’s Table?

Emeril Lagasse: I’m very excited about Emeril’s Table and basically this half hour show is really very exciting and very educational for folks.

Why will Emeril’s Table be the hottest reservation on television?

Emeril Lagasse: I would say that it’s a bit of intimacy that part of the all these daily entertaining of the half hour, giving the ultimate cooking lessons to a wide range of visitors. And what I mean by that is Emeril’s Table as we’re seeing the hottest reservation on television, there’s five seats at the food bar so that’s where it becomes very intimate and very educational for the home viewer as well as for the audience members.

Emeril’s Table is going to be the hottest reservations on TV. Why now?

Emeril Lagasse: I started and had 12 seasons of Essence of Emeril back in the ‘80s and helped launch the Food Network from zero to now 100 million homes. And then I sort of went, after having that run, took a little break and then I went and did something very fun more in the field called Emeril Green and sort of really tried to nail down or tried to nail down to the average person of what this whole green movement was and whether it was growing something organically or making something organically. And then from there this opportunity came and I’ve done a couple of fun shows to launch the Cooking Channel but then I really wanted to get back in what I do and what I do is I’m a cook and I cook every day. Love to cook, love to teach people and there was an opportunity with Emeril’s Table on this Hallmark block and I thought it was going to be a perfect match and I really feel that it is a perfect match. It’s a great show.

Who is your best dinner guest?

Emeril Lagasse: Julia Child. I have a very strong tie, love, almost addiction to music and so there have been a lot of music people who have come into my life because of food and some of them have just been really incredible. Billy Joel is an example, a true lover of food, a great cook. (Sammy Hagar) is another one, a terrific palate, has a garden, cooks most of the meals for his family and I could go on and on and on. I’ve had professional experiences where I’ve had colleagues, I’ve had mentors that have come in and I’ve cooked for so those were always not only a challenge but also quite memorable as well.

What will be the mix at your food bar?

Emeril Lagasse: The audience members range from newlyweds and busy moms to firefighters and vegetarians to all sorts of folks in life, real people experiencing real food. There is an array of type of programming so it’s not just one direct style of cooking. It’s really trying to, with my style, trying to take the intimidation factor out of cooking for folks at home and encouraging them something about food whether it’s shopping or a new ingredient or a new technique. So in essence that’s really the show.

How important is family time/table at your home?

Emeril Lagasse: The family table in my house is very, very important. As a matter of fact my kids have a joke that when we get up in the morning I usually ask them what they want for dinner or what we’re having for dinner before I even ask them what’s for breakfast. So it’s very important because we try to have a food plan. I think that’s very important. We have a well-stocked pantry. We try to buy perishable protein and vegetables on a daily or every other day basis. We stay seasonal and fresh as possible. We’re not a big we don’t eat fast food so the family table becomes very important. Tonight very simple because of the kids’ schedules – football, cheerleading, et cetera, et cetera – we’re having pasta bolognaise with a green vegetable and a very light salad. Last night coming off of the Labor Day weekend we still had some folks around; we had a family table last night of about 14 with some local shrimp done very simply scampi style with a simple rice pilaf and a great salad and some roasted asparagus and it was perfect.

Emeril’s Table seems more like a family table, and in recent years people have become extremely busy and have very little time to enjoy or participate in this kind of setting. How would you encourage more intimate time?

Emeril Lagasse: I’m seeing a lot more people trying to really encourage the family table and make the family table special again. I know personally with writing and producing Emeril’s Table; that was sort of the mine of what you just said. The table part of it was really sharing food and memories and different experiences with this table, with these five folks. On a personal note beside the show I feel the same way about my cooking and what we do whether it’s at a restaurant or on television or how I’m writing books these days. It’s all about encouraging that family table. So I think that it starts from the top. I think that we’ve all become very busy particularly through Monday through Thursday as families. I think we have to rethink the food plan and have a food plan so that by the end of the day we’re not ending up in some concrete parking lot trying to order from the window.

How much has the format changed for this new show as opposed to the old shows you have done?

Emeril Lagasse: It’s much more intimate for me with this show. Emeril’s grown up and it’s like a lot more adult kind of show meaning that I’m serious but yet a little bit experienced so I’m not so TV worried. I’m doing what I love to do and what I do every day, which is cook. I’m crossing boundaries that I normally wouldn’t have done when I was younger but I am now because I’m a lot more experienced meaning particularly with ethnic foods and techniques. And I’m just downright trying to share that and share that love that I have for what I’m doing. It’s a mature cooking show and I don’t mean that from at all being a snob because I’m not a food snob at all but it really is. It is a very mature, very intellectual, very right-on with cooking whatever the subject is but there’s humor. There’s not a lot of bam-bam, thank you ma’am. It’s just real downright cooking and education about the subject of what we’re doing.

What is the difference between the shows you have done in the past and this new project?

Emeril Lagasse: My experience with Food Network was 16 and ago years. I began and began helping them launch a channel with really the Essence of Emeril which was a half an hour serious food, teaching food program. And then we had a 10-year run of Emeril Live which is the show you’re talking about which had a huge audience, 200 people, had a band. Most of the guests that we had were musician-oriented partly because of my background and love. This show is really back to serious cooking but it is fun because with the audience, five people, the ranges of life bring a lot of realism to the show and to the programming. And so some of them are advance planned and some of them are not both in audience and/or content of what we’re going to particularly do for that particular show. I know we’re launching the first episode with a pasta show; the second episode is going to be vegetarian. And I think what you’ll see is real food cooked in real time. There were few times where we actually had swap food terminology in cooking. We really cook most things every day in real time to show that realism not only to the five people there but hopefully to the folks at home.

What are some of the fears of your guests when it comes to cooking?

Emeril Lagasse: Everybody has different strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen as a cook whether it’s a beginning cook or one with a little bit more experience. On the show with these guests we’ve experienced them all. We’ve had folks that are frightened about going to the grocery store and don’t even know where to begin. We have folks that have timing problems. That seems to keep coming up and keep coming up that how do I keep the potatoes warm; I’m trying to cook the steak yet, I’m burning the broccoli. And then of course the downright area of just technique and doing it right and building a recipe from start to finish whether it’s seasoning or depth of flavors, et cetera. We showcase all of those things just about every show. Every show we’re trying to talk a little bit about shopping or an experience that the show is about; i.e., let’s just say Spain. This is how it was in Spain. This is how they did it in Spain. This is how they always do it in Spain. This is how we’re doing it today. You choose what you feel comfortable with. So there’s that, there’s the shopping or fabricating part of it whether it’s about look, you can buy broken down chicken and you can pay $3.29 a pound for it, you can buy a whole fryer chicken for $1.29 a pound and this is how you would butcher it and look at the money that you’re going to save. You’re going to save $21 and some cents if you do it this way as opposed to that way. So we’re giving them also lots of combinations of how to buy it, how to fabricate it, how to cook it and a lot of history about where it comes from. Whether it’s something simple as maybe a brussel sprout or a string bean or what really is grass-fed beef as opposed to dry-age beef. And I’ve been doing this for a little while, I’ve done a lot of television, I’ve shot a lot of shows. I got to tell you, I’m super, super proud of Emeril’s Table. It’s going to be an awesome show.


When you first started cooking, what was the fear factor?

Emeril Lagasse: Well, I think the general mass of it. I mean first of all how do I get it? How do I shop for it? And then later on becoming a chef, it was now how do I grow it. Pretty much every day folks now can experience that because the great thing about local farmers’ markets, which is fantastic. Then after that it was just okay, what do I want to cook and what I realized is that I learned how to cook onion soup as an example probably 12 different ways from 12 different chefs. And then all of a sudden a light bulb went out and it was like you know what? Now I’m going to cook onion soup my way. I know now I want to use a combination of beef and chicken broth. I don’t want to use just beef. I want to caramelize my onions to this certain degree. And as you begin to start doing it a little bit more and a little bit more, you begin to start getting a lot more comfortable with it and you begin to start discovering a technique of your own.


What happened to your venture here in Miami?

Emeril Lagasse: We miss Miami. Just one of those things that happens. I mean our lease expired and sometimes in life philosophies changed and people’s direction changed and the hotel was kind of feeling like they’re renovating and want to go in another direction and we kind of been there, done that and so this far along in my career time is so valuable and so we just decided mutually that it was time to move on. Nothing against Miami, wouldn’t say that something in the near future might come up there but that’s life.

What was the selection process in getting these guests at your table?

Emeril Lagasse: We experienced quite a bit of success in the 10 years of Emeril Live particularly the last 5 or 6 years with that. We would do a run of shows a week and we would have roughly 2000 tickets available and there were years and times where we had a half a million requests for those runs. So right off the bat (Fran), my co-executive producer at Martha Stewart Living, and I and (Bernie), another gentleman, decided that rather than try to be as fair as possible we would go and hire a professional booker. And so we had a professional concierge if you will of television or a rep if you will. We would give her a lineup, okay, next week’s shows or next month’s shows. This week is going to be this show and this show and this show and if the world was perfect we would really like to have these sorts of folks for this show and this would be fun for this show and then she would go and do her job.

Will there be kids on Emeril’s Table?

Emeril Lagasse: Absolutely. We’ve had children on already in a couple of different age groups. When they’re a little younger than, you know, 7 or 8 it’s a different challenge. It brings on a different challenge just because for the most part, you know, 4 or 5 year olds; they have just a little shorter attention span. So you can’t be dragging things out for hours. You’ve got to get it done.But 8, 9, 10, 14; we’ve had those kids on. They’re into it. They want to know, they want to learn, they’re inquisitive. Most of them have been in the kitchen like your son with a parent. Most of them really are trying to enhance the family table themselves. Most of them are involved with food shopping which is also very important. My philosophy is this; kids are the future. They’re tomorrow, they’re next week, they’re next year, the next month and you have to invest in that in order for it to evolve.

Any Halloween specials?

Emeril Lagasse: We’re doing something with friendly snacks for Halloween. This would be great if we had kids.

Will you take the show on the road to other cities?

Emeril Lagasse: For the first season we worked in the greater tri-borough New York area just because it was a lot more easier to control. But I’m hoping that it evolves and the show evolves and that we can get a lot more part of the country involved.

What is your advice for hosting a dinner party?

Emeril Lagasse: Well, I would certainly know my guests as far as who’s coming and maybe even to the point of likes and dislikes. The worst thing that you want to happen is have 6 people over for a dinner party and 3 of them are allergic to shellfish or whatever. So I try to get a little bit of that information first. Secondly, what’s in season. Is it September? Is it July? Is it December? Because food and moods change seasonally just like the seasons do and so my advice is to understand that and try to know those couple of factors. Keep it simple, keep it fresh and you want to try to have a menu that you can do a little bit of advance or a lot of advance prep work in advance so that you can enjoy your guests and enjoy the dinner party as well.

Describe your relationship and/or partnership with Martha Stewart?

Emeril Lagasse: Martha has been doing what she’s been doing for a long time. I joined the organization close to I guess four years, almost five years ago. Martha and I have a very, very healthy relationship personally and work-wise as well in the environment. I think the thing that really stands out that makes it a great partnership is that Martha is Martha and Emeril’s Emeril and Emeril’s not trying to be Martha or Martha’s not trying to be Emeril. We run two very separate entities and have two very different styles. Sometimes they’re on the same page and sometimes they vary but the relationship is healthy. What’s going on in the organization right now is extremely positive. We have some very positive changes that are taking place. I know the Emeril business is really looking up. We’re having an awesome 2011 and I think that despite the economy and what’s happening in the crazy world and in this crazy country, I think we are running a really great operation and have a healthy future.

Can you talk a bit about your book, Sizzling Skillets?

Emeril Lagasse: It’s the day of the debut of the show and the next day is the debut of the book called Sizzling Skillets. It’s called Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders. What I’ve done, and we can chat about this again some more, but basically what it is is I’ve as a cook and talking with cooks and being around cooks I’ve kind of come up with the six cooking vessels as a cook that people love to cook with. A skillet, a casserole, a crockpot, a wok, a pot, et cetera, and basically all of the recipes are in those six categories of those six different cooking vessels. Really phenomenal recipes, great photography, really an awesome book. I’m really proud of it.

How involved are you with the new season of Bravo’s Top Chef?

Emeril Lagasse: I’m involved with pretty much the entire show.

What can you share about the upcoming season of Top Chef?

Emeril Lagasse: I can’t really give you any details of yet but I’m in 10 of the 13 episodes. And the finale so I’ve been very involved with Padma and Tom this season. Gail has sort of branched out a little bit for Top Chef Deserts although she’s still involved with the show, with Top Chef, the show. But I was also there as a great support system for all three of them.

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