Emeril Lagasse has created quite an empire for himself. Lagasse began his love of food growing up in Massachusetts (that's right folks, he's not originally from Louisiana). Emeril's connection with New Orleans began when he accepted the position of Executive Chef at the legendary Commander's Palace.
Emeril went on to open Emeril's in New Orlean's Warehouse District. NOLA restaurant in The French Quarter followed shortly and the ball started rolling. Emeril is now the chef-proprietor of 12 restaurants, including Emeril's Miami Beach. With all these restaurants, Emeril is probably best known as a colorful television personality and author. His punctuated yells of "Bam!" have shot him to food celebrity stardom. On a recent visit to New Orleans, Short Order was invited to tour Emeril's Test Kitchen.
Emeril's Homebase, as its called, is located on Historic St. Charles Avenue, right on the Mardi Gras parade route and streetcar line to the Garden District. Homebase is an old brick building, renovated to a modern loft style space that houses the people that make Emeril's empire work. Inside are the administrative and executive offices, the fulfillment warehouse for Emeril's online store and the Emeril test kitchen.
Jeff Hinson, public relations manager for Emeril's Homebase noted that most of the recipe testing at the kitchen was for Emeril's cooking appearances, shows and cookbooks and not necessarily for his restaurants. He then led us off to the kitchen, which was designed to be more like a home kitchen than an industrial kitchen.
Bam! Apparently Emeril has never been inside the kitchen of a one-bedroom condo in Miami Beach, because this kitchen didn't resemble any "home" kitchen I've ever seen. The stainless steel appliances glistened in the well-lit kitchen that featured several large prep stations. Every appliance known to chef-kind was there including (we're assuming) Emeril's full line of cookware products, each one shiny and new. This wasn't a home kitchen on steroids - this was a radioactive-spider-bitten kitchen, propelling this kitchen into Superhero status.
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While we were there, test chef Angela Sagabaen was busy working away, dicing and slicing, cutting and prepping. She was testing recipes for Emeril's Mother's Day "Breakfast in Bed" segment for Good Morning, America. "I'm really enjoying working with healthy foods", she said as she perfected the breakfast Emeril would later cook for some well-deserving mother somewhere in America's heartland.
As we left the test kitchen to grab a bite at Emeril's flagship restaurant, I was shown Emeril's office, which is occupied only part of the time, since Emeril spends much of his time in New York taping his shows and introduced to some of the staff. Everyone was friendly and really seemed to love Emeril -- but not in a creepy "drink the Kool-Aid" sort of way. I asked Jeff if there were any people - any at all -- who worked at Emeril's who were "nasty". "No. We've been Emeralized." Bam!
Emeril will be appearing at The South Beach Wine & Food Festival this weekend. He'll be co-sponsoring the sold out Let Them Eat Cake event with none other than Martha Stewart and will be doing cooking demonstrations at the GTV Saturday and Sunday. Double Bam!