In his earlier days as a chef, Lagasse would fly into New York from New Orleans and shoot 14 shows in two days: six on Sunday and eight on Monday. He had no studio audience, and everyone else was behind the scenes — except for the camera crew, who, he says, were “sleeping while holding the camera.” So “BAM!” came along to wake them up.
Whether it’s his passion for food, his honest modesty, or his “god-given” charisma, Emeril Lagasse charms the audience at the New York City Wine and Food Festival Times Talks.
After moderator Kim Severson of The New York Times opens with a clip from a Top Chef episode, in which Lagasse makes an appearance, the modest chef admits that while his kids are really into the show, he doesn’t watch much.
“At first, I didn’t get it,” he says. But he seems to get it now — he says he became more and more involved with writing and production in the last season.
On what he thinks of the show now: “The talent is really spectacular. I love the production… It’s the real deal. There is no pretention at all; what you see is what it is.”
When asked why he thinks people are so into food, Lagasse replies that it’s a sport. “You watch basketball, and you can’t taste the basketball,” he says.
While Lagasse is the chef and owner of 13 restaurants in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Orlando, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Charlotte, North Carolina, he has never opened a restaurant in New York City and doesn’t seem to plan on it.
“I’ve had opportunities probably 30 times,” he says. I could’ve opened a restaurant here, but I’m also in other places. So, I’ll just keep it like that.”
Severson mentions a New York Times restaurant review in which Guy Fieri’s New York City restaurant gets “creamed,” and Lagasse jokes: “I did read the review. I bought a copy of the review and I keep it under my pillow to remind me why I should never open a restaurant in New York.”
For Lagasse, it’s the smiles that make cooking for others worthwhile; “I quit cooking for reviews. I cook for myself and for my customers. If my customers are happy and they’re smiling when they eat, then I can tell my staff that they did a good job that day.”
Really, he just loves everything about what he does: “I love being in restaurants. I love taking care of people. I love being with my people. I love making people happy. I love seeing people smile a little bit more when they eat in a restaurant.”