As one of the most well-known celebrity chefs on the planet, Emeril Lagasse is a powerful force in the culinary world. In addition to owning 12 restaurants throughout the United States, he has penned nearly 19 cookbooks and has hosted over 2,000 Food Network episodes. Currently, he is the food correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America. In 2016, he launched an original series on Amazon, Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse, which received five Daytime Emmy nominations and won for outstanding culinary program.
Recently, Lagasse showcased his talents during Grand Cayman’s January 2018 Cayman Cookout, a premier culinary event created by chef Eric Ripert. Lagasse was a bit under the weather at the cookout, but he did not let it show. He enthusiastically attended the festival’s events, headlined standing-room-only cooking demos, snapped selfies with his fans, and captivated attendees during his exclusive Portuguese-themed dinner. In between all that, he took a few moments to discuss Caribbean food, education, and fresh fish.
Do you visit the Caribbean often? What are your thoughts on its evolving food scene?
I’m a crazy fisherman, so I try to get to the Caribbean and go on fishing trips as much as I can. I’m delighted with Caribbean food. Recently, I’ve been to St. Lucia, the Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos. Like most places in the world, the food is just getting better. People are understanding the ingredients more, and people are learning how to cook their local foods better than ever before.
Since you travel often, what’s been an interesting food trend that has impressed you recently?
Definitely Portuguese and Spanish tin foods; both countries take their tin foods very seriously. In fact, I was in Barcelona last year with José Andrés, and for lunch we went to a small bar—it offered a few draft beers and some Spanish wines—and the entire menu was a huge assortment of foods in tins. So you can order a tin of sardines or mackerel, and they are all spiced and prepared differently. It was delicious and really fascinating.
Please share some highlights about your new restaurant in Miramar Beach, Florida.
My latest restaurant is called Emeril’s Costal Italian. It is located in the Florida Panhandle, and it’s inspired by Italy’s famous Amalfi Coast. Our fish is caught fresh every day, and our specials are based on what is caught. At five o’clock in the morning, the fishermen come in and tell us what they have, and that’s when my chef decides what we will serve at the restaurant that day.
You must be proud of your award-winning Amazon series, Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse.
I didn’t necessarily do a lot of cooking in the show, but a lot of the people I worked with probably have as much passion about cooking as I do. I had a lot of great experiences while doing the show. I cooked with Jeong Kwan outside of Seoul, Korea—she’s considered to be the best vegetable cook in the world, and she’s a Zen Buddhist nun. Also in Korea, I did a pop-up restaurant with chef Danny Bowien, and I also went to Spain with José Andrés for an episode. Working on that show is always fun and interesting.
Any plans for a new season?
What question would you like be asked in interviews that doesn’t usually come up in conversation?
I would like to be asked about the network TV shows and why I’m not on television as much as I used to be. I think that we’ve gotten away from cooking on TV, and it’s turned into all this competitive stuff and bashing other contestants. I think there’s a little window for that, but it’s everywhere now. But when I do cooking demos like the one I did this morning at the event, and people ask questions like why I’m using San Marzano tomatoes, or why did I smash the garlic and chop the onions a certain way, and why did I flavour my breadcrumbs, it goes to show that there are still a lot of people out there who really want to learn how to cook.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
There’s more food where this came from.