by P. Greaney
If restaurants are theatre, Chef Emeril Lagasse deserves
an Oscar. His New New Orleans style cooking has turned
the town nicknamed the "Big Easy" on it's heels. And I
don't think anyone thought that was possible. Listen in
to hear what today's drama in the south is all about.
What makes Emeril's Restaurant different from
other New Orleans restaurants?
When you look at Louisiana food you'll see
there is a tremendous amount of respect. Mainly because
of the amount of years... it has 200 years of history.
There are restaurants that have menus that are older than
most US cities.
I never disrespect the tradition but I add new cultures.
Portuguese, Southwest, Caribbean, Vietnamese. Eighty percent
of the fishing boats are run by Vietnamese, so it's natural.
I am fortunate to have built relationships with fishermen,
farmers, lettuce growers. I've helped put many of them
Everything I do is from scratch. I've been doing organic
for 14 years. I started with a hog farmer to make andouille
sausage. In order to have great cuisine you need to have
great ingredients. Now...I didn't say EXPENSIVE ingredients.
I spent a lot of time at Commander's Palace... this is
why I came in late '82. I came here because the city has
a tradition and is a very respected food city. I loved
it's culture, music, food...
What is the most popular item on your menu?
The signature items I've created. Double Cut
Pork Chops with a tamarind glaze and a green mole sauce
(made from nuts) and caramelized sweet potatoes. Barbecue
Shrimp with homemade rosemary biscuits. Banana Cream Pie
with banana crusted caramel drizzles. Then we have partridge
from Michigan and Antelope from Texas. And a dish called
Study of Duck. It's a breast of duck that has been Creole
marinated. The leg is a confit of duck with foie gras
that is seared. We serve it with a wild mushroom bread
What are the most common special requests from
Food and wine pairings. We have over 17,000
bottles of wine and two full-time sommeliers. We have
a 7 course tasting menu that are matched with wine. Sometimes
our customers want the dishess to specifically complement
the wine. We try to take care of guests in any way we
can. Like vegetarian tastings. Which reminds me of our truffles
we are known for our truffles.
I see you include many homemade seasonings
in your cookbook.
Oh yes...spice is life. It depends upon what
you like... have fun with it. Yes, food is serious but
you should have fun with it.
Knowing that you have a Portuguese background
I am wondering what your favorite Portuguese dish is.
Kale soup. I use lots of fresh kale, chorizo
or andouille sausage, potatoes and chicken stock. My mom
(who is Portuguese) used to make it. Mom ran the house
so we grew up Portuguese.
What do you like to do when you're not working
in the kitchen?
I like to fish. And listen to music. I like
to bring music home to relax. After talking to people
all day long in the restaurant, which I love to do, I
look forward to being quiet at home.
You turned down a music scholarship to go to
cooking school. Why did you chose a cooking profession
over a music profession?
They are both art forms. I was a whiz kid at
music and cooking was more of a challenge. I started working
when I was 10 years old in a Portuguese bakery. I just
kept with it and liked it. I eventually went to culinary
school, Johnson & Wales.
Which chef or cookbook author has inspired
Paula Wolfort, all of her books are great but
the one I like most is "Cooking of Southwest France".
Which do you think are the best culinary schools
Oooh, you are putting me on the spot, I am
on many school boards. Culinary schools have come so far
in America. It depends upon the individual, a good school
applies to the
individual needs and it shouldn't be just financial. Louisville,
Kentucky has a great school, Sullivan College. Also, NE
Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. And there's
Johnson & Wales and of course the Culinary Institute of
Well, Emeril, thank you so much for your insight
It was a pleasure, thank you. It was fun.