Don't look for rattlesnake on Emeril's menu
Emeril talks about how the Gulf oil spill has affected his restaurants and why he won't cook rattlesnake.
Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 06:05 AM
FRESH CHEF: Emeril is a chef, cookbook author and television personality who is know for his New Orleans-style cooking and enthusiastic "Bam!" exclamations. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - Don't look for rattlesnake or processed cheese in any of Emeril Lagasse's recipes. Only fresh ingredients are on his menus and will be as long as the Gulf oil spill does not hurt supplies.
Lagasse, who worked in a local Portuguese bakery while growing up in Massachusetts, turned down a music scholarship to pursue a culinary career. After stints perfecting his skill in France, Lagasse now owns several restaurants.
The chef, cookbook author and television personality who is know for his New Orleans-style cooking and enthusiastic "Bam!" exclamations, spoke to Reuters about the impact of the Gulf oil spill, the links between music and cooking and the biggest challenges of restaurant work.
Q: Where do you find recipe inspiration?
A: It really starts with the ingredients — seasonality and ingredients. There's a movement about sustainability, there's a movement about farm to fork — well, I've been doing that for 35 years. When you have a great product, you have great food. And that's my philosophy in everything I do.
Q: Any other inspirations?
A: I have a music background. I turned down a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music to pay to go to cooking school. So music is in my head all the time. Music makes people happy like food makes people happy.
On a personal note, I'm very connected to the soil and very connected to the sea. The ocean does something magical for me.
Q: Speaking of the ocean, how has the Gulf oil spill affected your businesses?
A: My restaurants are OK right now. There's a major shortage of oysters, shrimp is at maybe 70 percent. A lot of the Gulf is still open and producing fish. We may use some sustainable aqua-culture. I have been doing that for 15 years already when it comes to red fish and trout. We'll do what we've got to do and do the best that we can.
Q: Have you changed your menus?
A: As of right now, we've not had to do that. At the same time, we've got a mess on our hands. I don't think most people know how big of a mess we have. This is going to be more than your and my lifetime, and probably more than our children's lifetimes in terms of (recognizing and fixing) the damage this is doing to the ecosystem.
I rode on oil a couple of weeks ago when I was down there. I went through a couple of oil patches when I was out with my boat. It's a very sad situation.
Q: How do you juggle the demands of being a well-known personality along with your love of cooking?
A: Whatever I do, I approach it with love. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't do it. It doesn't matter if I'm in France designing a piece of cookware, or in a field pulling turnips with a farmer. It's all about the food of love.
Q: Is there any aspect of your business you don't love?
A: I'm dealing with a human element here. The restaurant business is a very tough business. I can't control people. I can't moderate how their day was and how the kids behaved, before they left the house and came to dinner. The people element of things is a juggle.
Q: Is there anything you don't enjoy cooking?
A: I don't enjoy cooking anything that's not real food. So I wouldn't cook rattlesnake. That's not my deal. I don't really know what processed stuff really is.