In the early days of chef stardom, Emeril Lagasse would get off work at his New Orleans restaurant at 2 a.m., catch a flight for New York at 7 a.m., and film 14 shows in two days.
In the early days of chef stardom, Emeril Lagasse would get off work at his New Orleans restaurant at 2 a.m., catch a flight for New York at 7 a.m., and film 14 shows in two days. Between shoots, his small crew would eat and go back to filming, full and sleepy. "I realized, I'm, like, alone here. Everyone is sleeping," Lagasse joked at his TimesTalks event on Saturday. "So, bam!" It was his way of waking up the camera crew.
On stage during the New York City Wine & Food Festival and in our one-on-one interview before the event, Lagasse wasn't the spastic ball of energy he is on TV. He was far more reserved yet still oozing with charisma. When he said he just wants to hire people "who want to make people happy," it sounded sincere.
Yes, he makes millions of dollars and he basically built the Food Network on his personality. But when we asked him what brings him the most joy, he said it's still the restaurant work. "That's my backbone. That's what really pushes the buttons for me," said Lagasse. "Taking care of people and cooking for people. That's what does it."
Lagasse doesn't understand how cooking became a competitive sport or when culinary school evolved into such a massive force, but he's a great admirer of the talent on Top Chef. And he told us, "Everything has to evolve. It certainly in 20 years has evolved a lot." Do today's chefs put less focus on technique and history? "I think they want it. I just don't think they're getting it," he said. Lagasse's advice to young chefs is to find a mentor and focus on learning.
For the best morsels from Lagasse's TimesTalk, keep reading.