Straight from Emeril's Heart
A Personal Conversation with Chef Emeril Lagasse
by Patrick Killam
As you can see from this interview, he is exactly the same in person or on the screen–exuberant, humorous, personable, quite lovable, really.
With so many successful restaurants already in place, what made you decide to open one in Atlanta?
Emeril: Well, you know, it's so much fun here, because Atlanta people love food, restaurants and entertaining. We are very delighted to be a part of the community.
In addition, my wife and I have family here. Also, my partners and I had been wanting to come to Atlanta for a long time. Then we had a great opportunity to be a part of the Alliance Center, the building we are in. The space is phenomenal. It has a lot of heart and soul. And when an opportunity comes, I believe you've got to be ready for it, or it goes goodbye. And so, it was like, OK, the match is done. Let's do it. And that's why we're here.
With the varied diets that come and go, it seems that people are very confused about food. What advise can you give them?
Emeril: Well, you know what? I am not into diets. I have never been on a diet. I don't tell people to go on a diet. I believe in moderation. Unless there's a health reason involve d, I don't think that people should be on a diet. I think that moderation is the key. I think that if you eat pork chops seven days a week, eventually you are going to look like a pork chop.
Emeril: I kind of grew up in the era when people didn't eat out so much. They cooked at home instead. When they got together it was at someone's house, and they were asked to bring a dish. That's how we got together back then. It wasn't like a whole meal thing. It was a matter of sharing. That kind of sharing sort of went away. It disappeared for a while, this whole potluck thing. But now I think it's starting to come back, because people are cooking more. They're more educated about cooking. They are eating more. A lot of those dishes in Potluck are dishes of the past, but hopefully they are now going to be dishes of the future.
Do you ever fear that "Emeril, the personality" will overshadow "Emeril, the chef"?
Emeril: You know what, I wake up every day, and I go to work. I try harder everyday. I don't take everything for granted. But I got to tell you, I'm not all wrapped up in things. I'm not wrapped up in following trends. I'm not wrapped up in trying to be somebody that I'm not. All that I want to be is Emeril. That's all I am. I'm just Emeril. So I don't wake up saying "Oh, I got to do this. I got to do that." I am what I am. I think that's why I've stayed on television for 10 years, and they haven't fired me. It's because I am what I am. It's like, what you see is what you get. If you don't like it, change the channel.
What keeps you passionate about what you do?
Emeril: Oh, I love what I do. But you know what it's about? It's about people. Like meeting you, being around people. It's about people. I love making people happy, and I do that with food. I'm blessed. My talent, I guess my mission from God is that I do it with food. Some people do it with music or sports, they're an architect, a garbage man or whatever the case may be. My mission is to get people excited about food.
Emeril: I do about 95 percent of the cooking at home. My wife is a great cook. But what she says is: Why? Why should I cook? I have all these gadgets. I'm like a gadget fanatic. I'm a product fanatic. But I would say the most unusual item I have in the kitchen right now is some 50-year-old balsamic vinegar. You just need to use a little drop of it.
If all your success ended tomorrow, what would you be most proud of?
Emeril: Probably that I did it my way. I stopped cooking for the critics a long time ago. You can get so wrapped up in that, and it can really kill you. So, I cook for my customers. I cook for people. I am not cooking for the critics. That combined with having fun. When you don't have fun anymore, it's time to get out. It's time to finish it. And I'm having an absolute blast. As long as I'm having a blast, I'm going to continue to keep on cooking.
An established cookbook author, Emeril has written 10 books including:
For more information on Emeril Lagasse, check out www.emerils.com.