Emeril Lagasse Turned Down a Scholarship for Music to Become a Chef

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Emeril Lagasse is a celebrity chef best known as the host of the television show Emeril Live, his lines of products and restaurants, and his catchphrases.

Emeril was born on October 15, 1959 in Fall River, Massachusetts. His passion for food was ignited as a young boy growing up in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts, where he spent time in the kitchen with his mother, Hilda. He was raised in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts, by his French-Canadian father, Emeril Jr., and his Portuguese mother, Hilda.

Emeril’s Uncle had a Farm in Westport where he raised chickens, hogs, goats and sheep and he grew fruits and vegetables. Emeril helped with harvesting things like the beans, peppers, zucchinis, milking the goats and cows and gathering the eggs from the chicken coop. They had a vegetable garden in their backyard in Fall River that Emeril and his Dad tended to. Anything they didn’t eat they brought to the farmers market or to their neighbors. Emeril learned a lot from these experiences especially the connection between the food we eat and the people who grow it.

While working at a local Portuguese bakery, Emeril developed a penchant for cooking. In 1973, he enrolled in the culinary arts program at Diman Vocational High School. Also a talented percussionist, Lagasse led the high school drum squad, playing at dances, banquets and numerous local religious festivals.

Most people know Emeril for his Creole cuisine, but he also makes Spanish, Asian, French, Caribbean and Native Portuguese dishes.

Upon his high school graduation, Lagasse was offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music, but decided to pursue a career as a professional chef instead. He spent the next year training at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. In order to pay his tuition, Lagasse took a job at a local restaurant, where he met fellow student Elizabeth Kief. The two married in October 1978, a few months after Lagasse completed his course work.

Eager to broaden his culinary horizons, Lagasse then traveled to Paris and Lyon, France, where he honed his skills and learned the art of classic French cuisine. Returning to the United States, Lagasse practiced his art in fine restaurants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia until a job offer from Dick and Ella Brennan lured the young chef to New Orleans, where Lagasse helmed the kitchen for nearly eight years at their legendary restaurant, Commander’s Palace replacing Paul Prudhomme as executive chef in 1982. This demanding position, which required Lagasse to work 18 hours a day, put a strain on his marriage. Lagasse and his wife divorced in 1986, at which time Elizabeth and their two children moved back to Massachusetts.

After seven and a half years at Commander’s Palace, Lagasse opened his first restaurant, Emeril’s, in 1990. Located in New Orleans’ underdeveloped Warehouse District, the menu fused elements of French, Spanish, Caribbean, Asian and Lagasse’s native Portuguese cuisine. Immediately well received by patrons and critics, Emeril’s was named Best New Restaurant of the Year by Esquire magazine. In 1992, riding on the heels of Emeril’s success, Lagasse opened a second establishment, NOLA (an acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana). With its rustic cuisine and ornate décor, NOLA also garnered a positive reception from the culinary community.

In 1993, Lagasse published the bestselling cookbook Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking, which introduced his creative approach to Creole cuisine. Later that year, his growing popularity caught the eye of executives at cable television’s fledgling Food Network. After two failed programs (How to Boil Water and Emeril & Friends), the 1995 series, Essence of Emeril, immediately struck a chord with viewers. The following year, Time magazine classified Essence of Emeril as one of the 10 best shows on television.

Using catch phrases like “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!” Lagasse showcased his personal cooking style and flair for the dramatic in his next TV project, Emeril Live! Featuring a live studio audience and a four-member band, the series catapulted Lagasse into a realm of celebrity rarely enjoyed by a chef. Capitalizing on the popularity of Emeril Live!, the Food Network took the show to cities like Philadelphia and Chicago, where Lagasse drew arena-sized crowds. In 2000, an episode filmed in Las Vegas featured a young couple taking their wedding vows while Lagasse stood by as best man. Although popular among viewers, many culinary writers denounced Lagasse’s theatrical displays, deeming his antics to be flamboyant, devoid of substance, and more entertainment than instruction. In May 2003, the Food Network signed Lagasse to a five-year, multi-million dollar deal for 90 new episodes per year.

In addition to his hectic TV schedule and restaurant empire (which now includes six establishments), Lagasse has recently endorsed his own line of cookware called Emerilware. Lagasse’s other endeavors include regular guest appearances on Good Morning America, as well as four bestselling cookbooks—Louisiana Real and Rustic (1996), Emeril’s Creole Christmas (1997), Emeril’s TV Dinners (1998) and Every Day’s a Party (1999). In May 2000, Lagasse appeared on the wildly popular game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, where he donated his $125,000 in winnings to a New Orleans charity for children with learning disabilities.

From 1989-’96, Lagasse was married to fashion designer Tari Hohn. He wed his third wife, real estate broker Alden Lovelace and the couple have a daughter Meril Lovelace Lagasse and a son E.J. (Emeril John Lagasse IV) born in March 2003.

One of his favorite quotes is; “I wouldn’t wish divorce on my worst enemy. It’s just a lousy thing to go through. I disagree with people who say ‘oh, its a good time now we can get divorced.’ There’s no good time to get divorced. It stinks, it’s a lousy thing.”

In 2013, for his dedicated efforts to further the culinary arts in America, as well as his philanthropic work supporting children’s educational programs through the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, he was honored with the  Humanitarian of the Year Award by the James Beard Foundation.
Since its launch, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation has awarded more than $7 million to support children’s culinary, nutrition and arts program charities.

Emeril has gone on to win a plethora of awards, he’d perhaps need one big room to display them. These include;

1991 – Emeril’s Restaurant wins Wine Spectator “Grand Award”

2007 – “Restaurateur of the Year” by New Orleans City Business

2006 – inducted into the Menu Masters Hall of Fame by Nation’s Restaurant News

2005 – “Distinguished Service Award” from Wine Spectator for his significant and long-lasting contributions to the wine industry.

2004 – “Executive of the Year” by Restaurants & Institutions magazine

2004 – Delmonico Steakhouse received the Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine, and has continued each year since.

2002 – Delmonico Steakhouse was named “Best Steakhouse” by Las Vegas Life magazine

1999 – One of People magazine’s “25 Most Intriguing People of the Year.”

1998 – “Chef of the Year” by GQ magazine

1993 – NOLA received “Best New Restaurant” by Esquire magazine.

1991 – Emeril named “Best Southeast Regional Chef” by James Beard Foundation.


Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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