Catching Up with Emeril Lagasse: What's Next for the Globetrotting Chef?
Emeril Lagasse has been very busy lately. In addition to the famed chef’s food correspondence gig on Good Morning America, countless TV appearances, running 14 individual restaurants, and hosting his two-time Emmy Award winning Amazon show Eat the World, he most recently re-opened his year-old seafood restaurant, Emeril’s Fish House, at Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania after a three-month renovation.
The New Orleans-inspired restaurant features southern favorites including sweet corn hush puppies, fried seafood platters, shrimp and grits with housemade bacon, and buttermilk fried chicken. What sets this restaurant apart from the rest of the offerings at Sands Bethlehem is its “fresh off the grill” selection which offers your choice of fish (striped bass, salmon, ahi tuna, and even lobster) with your choice of sauce such as Creole mustard sauce or sweet corn salsa, along with a hearty side such as a glazed sweet potato or Brussels sprouts. Other signature offerings include pecan crusted rainbow trout with pecan relish and Creole meuinere sauce and jumbo crab cakes. And don’t forget house-made beignets for dessert.
We chatted with Emeril at the re-launch of Emeril’s Fish House, New Orleans, a possible second season of Eat the World, and what he’s excited about for the rest of this year.
The Daily Meal: How did the concept for Emeril’s Fish House come about?
Emeril Lagasse: We’ve done a complete renovation of the restaurant. When the casino (Sands Bethlehem) and establishment began to grow, management wanted a second restaurant. A restaurant that would be more adaptable to the casino floor. Being in Las Vegas for 25 years now, I know what that means.
We created Burgers And More (BAM), but I wanted to it be more than just a burger restaurant. Bethlehem has a large Italian population and Italian culture (along with Italian food) can be seen pretty much on every other block in this area. There’s either a pizza joint or a place to get pasta… so then management thought they needed a third restaurant. They asked if I could do an Italian restaurant and we did. My philosophy from the start was that a fish restaurant would be much better because you can go down the street and get pizza and pasta around here that’s pretty darn good.
What’s new at Emeril’s Fish House?
I’ve had a fish restaurant in Vegas for 21 years now, and they thought I was absolutely out of my mind when I decided I wanted to open up a fish restaurant in the middle of the desert. But we did it and so how do we take that concept and make it better? That’s what we did here in Sands Bethlehem.
We have an oyster raw bar, great cocktails, and craft beer. And we’re in proximity to Philadelphia, Boston, and New York so our fish comes in every day except Sunday. I’m really pleased with how the restaurant has evolved and how it’s designed, but more importantly I’m pleased with my staff.
What is the importance of fish sustainability? What are the values that make this restaurant special?
The way that the restaurant has been created is, we have a cold section that has alternatives such as poke and shrimp cocktail. The quality of our ingredients is important. I’ll give you an example. I’m fighting with this one. We’re creating new restaurant in the Gulf Coast called Emeril’s Italian Coastal. We’ve been in the test kitchen for seven weeks messing around with octopus. We can’t get it right. It’s good but not great and if it’s not great I can’t put it on the menu. So I come here (to Sands Bethlehem) three days ago and the chef makes me this perfect octopus dish. He taught me a lesson on how he’s cooking this octopus. And this is how we do things. We collectively and collaboratively work on making it better.
Eat The World has been doing really well. Plans for a second season?
Yes, we’re in talks for a second season. Eat the World was not a very cheap show. We had a tight crew of 14 of us on the road, traveling the world. I went around the world twice doing that show. It’s challenging because of language barriers, being in a Communist country. It just won two Emmys and it a fabulous show.
I have a lineup in my head of where I want to go next season, places like Vietnam, the Burgundy Region of France, I’d like to do the other side of Spain. It was an incredible experience for me and what was really incredible for me was our latest restaurant that we opened, Merrill in NOLA, has 43 dishes on the menu. And probably 50 percent of the influence from that comes from Merrill, my daughter, and me traveling around the world doing this show.
There’s a Korean short-rib with kimchi on the menu, there’s flat bread, and pasta… during one of the shows with Nancy Silverman, we tried to find the best pizza maker in the world, a guy by the name of Franco Pepe outside of Napoli, and we found him. It was an incredible experience and I have a whole different way now of looking at pizza.
What do you love about New Orleans?
I’ve been there for about 35 years. NOLA is one of those very unique cities when it comes to culture and food and if you can understand the people and understand the culture then you can understand the food.
The food has so much depth in NOLA and Louisiana in particular, such rich tradition and yet so much newness because the product, the waters, and the soil keep continuing to evolve.