Emeril Lagasse: Using the Power of the Culinary Arts to Make a Change

by Olivia Tacelli
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 8, 2011

Emeril Gives BackIt's not difficult to appreciate the culinary arts talents of professional chefs like Emeril Lagasse. But when all's said and done, it's Lagasse's commitment to the health and sustainability of his restaurants' communities that continues to impress and inspire us.

Culinary Arts Childhood

Raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lagasse was taught to cook and bake under the tutelage of his Portuguese mom and French Canadian dad. Though caldo verde (kale soup) and roasted pork and clams are two dishes his parents cooked regularly, it was repeatedly making a simple vegetable soup till it pleased his mom that was a defining moment in his early development as a chef.

Chef Status

Starting as a talented teenager at a Portuguese bakery, and moving on to graduate from culinary school at Johnson and Wales, Lagasse is now counted among world famous chefs with 12 award-winning restaurants in four states including his latest Burgers and More by Emeril at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem. Part of the Martha Stewart family of brands since 2008, Lagasse also writes a weekly magazine food column, hosts a radio talk show, and stars as the food correspondent for ABC's Good Morning America.

Giving Back Through the New Orleans Culinary Arts Scene

Despite all of these remarkable accomplishments, Lagasse's legacy is most deeply felt by the work the Emeril Lagasse Foundation accomplishes for young people in New Orleans. Programs include a summer arts camp (with cooking lessons), Carnivale du Vin, raising money for oil-spilled affected Gulf Coast families, and Cafe Hope and Liberty's Kitchen, businesses that feed, teach, and raise money for disadvantaged youth.

Famous Flavor

Culinarily speaking, Lagasses is most famous for his down home New Orleans cuisine, and uses a spice mix called Essence (made from paprka, salt, garlic, pepper, thyme, onion, cayenne, and oregano) as the flavor base for his most popular recipes, including Chicken and Rice Soup and Creole Fried Chicken.

About the Author

Olivia Tacelli is a freelance writer specializing in all things culinary. She has been a chef and caterer for 18 years, and has run her own whole foods cooking business, The Olive Tree, for 8 years.

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