Friday, September 23, 2011

Emeril Lagasse on His Place in Food TV History

  Photo by Anders Krusberg/Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

As the long list of celebrity chefs gets unwieldy, there are still a few iconic names that pop out — Julia Child, Graham Kerr and, of course, Emeril Lagasse. Who knows if The Food Network would have been such a resounding hit, without it’s breakout star back in the day. Now Lagasse’s back with the new show Emeril’s Table on the Hallmark Channel. In a recent conference call interview, he talked about the series and his place in culinary entertainment history.

Emeril addressed his undeniable place in the food chain. “I didn’t really jump into the genre because I think I started it and I’m not saying that sarcastically. I mean I started and had 12 seasons of Essence of Emeril back in the ‘80s and helped launch the Food Network from zero to now 100 million homes.”

He discussed his progression in the arena, saying “Then [I], after having that run, took a little break and then I went and did something very fun more in the field called Emeril Green. And [I] tried to nail down to the average person of what this whole green movement was and whether it was growing something organically or making something organically.”

Emeril continued to be on the cutting edge of new food media. He recounted, “Then from there this opportunity came and I’ve done a couple of fun shows to launch the Cooking Channel. But then I really wanted to get back in what I do and what I do is I’m a cook and I cook every day. Love to cook, love to teach people. And there was an opportunity with Emeril’s Table on this Hallmark block and I thought it was going to be a perfect match and I really feel that it is a perfect match. It’s a great show.”

He also talked about his own shows have developed over time. Lagasse recalled, “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.”

Lagasse went on to create a less traditional series than most foodies were used to. “Then we had a 10-year run of Emeril Live, which had a huge audience, 200 people, had a band. Most of the guests that we had were musician-oriented, partly because of my background and love.”

But his present show seems to be taking him back to his culinary show roots. He revealed, “This 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.”

He divulged a bit of the contents of the first few installments. “We’re launching the first episode with a pasta show. The second episode is going to be vegetarian.”

And unlike many heavily-produced series, Emeril’s Table will take would-be chefs through the step-by-step progression of a meal. Lagasse explained, “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.”

Lagasse seemed very pleased with where he’s at in his TV culinary journey. He confessed, “For me it’s much more intimate for me with this show. And it’s like Emeril’s grown up. And it’s a lot more adult show meaning that I’m serious, but yet a little bit experienced so I’m not so TV worried.”

Emeril added, “I’m doing what I love to do and what I do every day, which is cook. I’m crossing boundaries that I normally wouldn’t have done when I was younger but I am now because I’m a lot more experienced meaning particularly with ethnic foods and techniques. And I’m just downright trying to share that and share that love that I have for what I’m doing.”

The iconic TV chef summed it up saying, “It’s a mature cooking show and I don’t mean that from at all being a snob because I’m not a food snob at all but it really is. It is a very mature, very intellectual, very right-on with cooking whatever the subject is but there’s humor. There’s not a lot of bam-bam, thank you ma’am. It’s just real downright cooking and education about the subject of what we’re doing.”

Emeril's Table premieres on Monday, September 26 at 11 a.m. EST/10 a.m. Central on the Hallmark Channel.

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