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Emeril Lagasse is one of America’s most beloved and recognizable chefs. His hit shows on the Food Network, Emeril Live and the Essence of Emeril, have made Emeril a household name, along with his catchphrases “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!”.
As a teenager, Emeril got his start in the food industry by making bread and pastries at a Portuguese bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts. After high school, Emeril turned down a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music to pursue his true passion, cooking. He attended Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island where he received a degree in culinary arts. Later in his career he would receive an honorary doctorate from JWU.
After college, Emeril apprenticed in the French kitchens of Paris and Lyons. He returned to the United States to work in restaurants in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. He was noticed by Ella Brennan of the famous New Orleans restaurant, Commander’s Palace, who convinced Emeril to move to the Big Easy and become executive chef, a position he held for the next eight years.
In 1990, Emeril Lagasse opened his own restaurant in New Orleans, Emeril’s, to critical acclaim. In 1991, the James Beard Foundation named him Best Southeast Regional Chef. In 1993, Emeril published the bestselling cookbook Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking, which shared 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 cord with viewers. The following year, Time magazine classified Essence of Emeril as one of the 10 best shows on television.
His success continued with the opening of nine other restaurants: NOLA (1992), Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House – Las Vegas (1995), Delmonico – New Orleans (1998), Emeril’s Orlando at Universal Studios (1999), Delmonico Steakhouse – Las Vegas (1999), Emeril’s Tchoup Chop – Orlando (2002), Emeril’s Atlanta (2003), and Emeril’s Miami Beach (2003).
In August 2006, Emeril Lagasse contributed several recipes to the meal selection aboard the International Space Station as part of a general NASA effort to improve the quality of the food for astronauts. Emeril’s cuisine in particular was selected in the hopes that the spicier fare would offset the reported tendency of microgravity to deaden flavors.
In 2002, Emeril started the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, a charity organization whose mission is to improve the lives of young people.