Emeril Lagasse loves to cook.
He loves to cook for his daughters, Jilly and Jessie. He loves to cook for his new wife, Alden. He loves to cook with schoolchildren. He loves to cook for America.
So he cooks.
| "Essence of Emeril," noon, weekdays, TV Food Network
"Emeril Live," 3 p.m. weekdays, TV Food Network
One night at home when he wasnt working, he cooked chicken soup and bolognese sauce with noodles (spaghetti with red sauce). "Thats the kind of great food I love," he says.
On his cable-TV shows "Emeril," he might be making cream and parsnip soup with potato crisps and bacon, or butternut squash ravioli. Find him online with scores of recipes, including beef brisket with onion powder, garlic powder and ketchup. Go to one of his restaurants, and you could get foie gras or shrimp with grits.
Hes lucky he loves it because cooking with and for all these people keeps him "on the road about 50 percent of my life. I sleep about five hours a day."
And it keeps about 1,000 people on his payroll. "Its a lot of responsibility," he says, and hes always mindful of it. "Its not a game; its a serious business."
Serious business, indeed.
Lagasse, married for the third time in May, is reported to be worth $3.2 million by Forbes.
The king of "kick it up a notch," the 41-year-old chef-turned TV personality didnt start off a cooking prodigy. He was born to working-class parents in Fall River, Mass.
His dad was French-Canadian; his mother was Portuguese and a good cook. Lagasse excelled in music in school (he was a percussionist) but went to work at age 12 in a Portuguese bakery making bread and pastry.
In the end, he choose cooking over music, turning down a music scholarship to work his way through the culinary program of Johnson & Wales University.
Like other aspiring chefs, Lagasse worked a little here, a little there. He went to France for a while, then returned to the United States for stints in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
After meeting Ella Brennan, owner of the famed Commanders Palace in New Orleans, the then-26-year-old Lagasse was tapped to replace another larger-than-life cmhef, Paul Prudhomme. Lagasse worked at Commanders for more than seven years before opening his own eponymous restaurant in New Orleans.
As a chef and owner of Emerils, he employed 33 people and drew kudos for his cooking even before the Television Food Network was conceived. Food & Wine magazine declared him one of the countrys best chefs in 1991, when he also was acclaimed the best chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation and Emerils was named restaurant of the year by Esquire magazine.
Then BAM! he hit the airwaves.
Lagasse now reaches out to average food enthusiasts, wannabe cooks and normal people.
"I have done (his show) since the inception of the network," he says. "I believed in the vision of the network. I wanted to make the (food) industry evolve and have fun doing that. My life is completely circled by food. I eat, sleep, drink every minute of the day."
Lagasse is indefatigable.
For a typical day in New Orleans, he will rise at 7:30 a.m. and "catch up with everybody." With six restaurants from Las Vegas to Orlando, Fla., Lagasse has a corporate chef "I hate that word, corporate," he says who is "connected with the hour-to-hour, day-to-day work" of the many chefs des cuisines.
His home base has a culinary library and a test kitchen for brainstorming and tasting. (Menus at his restaurants change seasonally, so theres a lot of brainstorming.)
He meets with people who update those who update his Web site (www.emerils.com). There are publishers, there are shows to plan, theres the marketing team, there are visits to his local restaurants (NOLA and Delmonicos, in addition to Emerils).
"Then Ill get home at midnightish, one oclockish, get something to eat, visit with the family, and get up and do it again," he says.
His travel schedule includes trips to New York, both for his shows and his appearances on ABCs "Good Morning, America."
He travels to meet the winners of his best-pie competitions.
Charisma and culinary talent keep Lagasse at the top of a short list of food stars, a position that seems secure. All-Clad, an upscale cookware company, has just named a line of pots for him, and a line of spices called Emerils Original has just been released.
Lagasse has been on a nine-city book tour, and he doesnt even have a new book. Fans line up by the hundreds sometimes thousands to meet him.
Lagasse disparages authors who visit only larger cities when they tour; he visits mid-size towns as well (and hes been to Hawaii several times, with the Food Network and with the Kea Lani Hotels Grand Chefs on Tour program).
"I think people in those places cook too," says Lagasse.
"Im running at a hard pace. There are things you gotta sacrifice to do that. Theres not a lot of normalcy, theres not a lot of Lets go to the opera tonight or Lets go to the basketball game. "
He keeps it up because "I love people," he says. "You gotta want to make people happy."
[back to top]