Something’s always cooking with chef Emeril Lagasse. His latest project is the new daily television series, “Emeril’s Table,” which premiers Monday, September 26 on Hallmark Channel at 11 am EST. The celebrity chef, who turns 52 in October, has been a fixture on TV since the mid-1990s when he launched “Essence of Emeril,” a show that TIME magazine at the time called one of TV’s 10 best. He has similarly high hopes for his new series on the Hallmark Home block, a format that has him cooking for a group of five people seated around the food bar eager to learn how to kick their own cooking up a notch. “The audience members range from newlyweds and busy moms to firefighters and vegetarians to all sorts of folks in life, real people experiencing real food,” says Lagasse. “It’s really trying to, with my style, trying to take the intimidation factor out of cooking for folks at home and encouraging them something about food whether it’s shopping or a new ingredient or a new technique.” Lagasse recently stepped away from kitchen for a few moments to speak with a group of curious – and hungry – journalists.
Is an appreciation of fresh and local food and cooking allowing the family table to make a comeback? I’m seeing a lot more people trying to really encourage the family table and make the family table special again. With writing and producing “Emeril’s Table,” the table part of it was really sharing food and memories and different experiences with this table, with these five folks. On a personal note beside the show I feel the same way about my cooking and what we do whether it’s at a restaurant or on television or how I’m writing books these days. It’s all about encouraging that family table. So I think that it starts from the top. I think that we’ve all become very busy particularly through Monday through Thursday as families. I think we have to rethink the food plan and have a food plan so that by the end of the day we’re not ending up in some concrete parking lot trying to order from the window.
Your schedule is always so hectic. What are family meals like at your house these days and what’s it like around your table, your home kitchen table? The family table in my house is very, very important. As a matter of fact my kids have a joke that when we get up in the morning I usually ask them what they want for dinner or what we’re having for dinner before I even ask them what’s for breakfast. We try to have a food plan. I think that’s very important. We have a well-stocked pantry. We try to buy perishable, you know, protein and vegetables on a daily or every other day basis. We stay seasonal and fresh as possible. We’re not a big, you know, we don’t eat fast food so the family table becomes very important. Tonight very simple because of the kids’ schedules – football, cheerleading, et cetera, et cetera – we’re having pasta bolognaise with a green vegetable and a very light salad.
The original Emeril show where you were, you know, you’re in New Orleans and it was like a party and there was music. Can you talk about the subtle differences between that show that sort of really put you on the map and this particular one? Well, you know, my experience with Food Network was 16 and ago years. I began and began helping them launch a channel with really the “Essence of Emeril,” which was a half an hour serious food, teaching food program. And then we had a 10-year run of “Emeril Live,” which is the show you’re talking about which had a huge audience, 200 people, plus a band. Most of the guests that we had were musician-oriented, you know, partly because of my background and love. This [new] show is really back to serious cooking but it is fun because with the audience, five people, the ranges of life bring a lot of realism to the show and to the programming. And so some of them are advance planned and some of them are not both in audience and/or content of what we’re going to particularly do for that particular show.
Can you tell us what you’re cooking on the first couple shows? I know we’re launching the first episode with a pasta show; the second episode is going to be vegetarian. And I think what you’ll see is real food cooked in real time. There were few times where we actually had swap food terminology in cooking. We really cook most things every day in real time to show that realism not only to the five people there but hopefully to the folks at home.
You’re working with Martha Stewart’s company on the new show. How do you two get along and which one of you, in your opinion, prepares a better family dinner? I think Martha has been doing what she’s been doing for a long time. I joined the organization close to I guess four years, almost five years ago. Martha and I have a very, very healthy relationship personally and work-wise as well in the environment. I think the thing that really stands out that makes it a great partnership is that Martha is Martha and Emeril’s Emeril and Emeril’s not trying to be Martha or Martha’s not trying to be Emeril. We run two very separate entities and have two very different styles. Sometimes they’re on the same page and sometimes they vary but the relationship is healthy. What’s going on in the organization right now is extremely positive. We have some very positive changes that are taking place.
We know that in your new show you’ll be inviting all kinds of people to you table but can you tell us about the best dinner guest you’ve ever had? On the show or personally?
Yes, personally. One immediately comes to mind and that would be Julia Child. I have a very strong tie, love, almost addiction to music and so there have been a lot of music people who have come into my life because of food and some of them have just been really incredible. Billy Joel is an example, a true lover of food, a great cook. (Sammy Hagar) is another one, a terrific palate, has a garden, cooks most of the meals for his family and I could go on and on and on. I’ve had professional experiences where I’ve had colleagues, I’ve had mentors that have come in and I’ve cooked for so those were always not only a challenge but also quite memorable as well.
Tune-in to “Emeril’s Table” Monday, September 26 on Hallmark Channel at 11 am EST.