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Emeril's Cooking... On Many Fronts

emeril.jpgFor the chef who’s known for "kicking it up a notch," Emeril Lagasse has just added some of his signature "Bam!" to his career. From his office in New York, he says he has just wrapped up his first cookbook in four-and-a-half years, Emeril at the Grill, which is due out in May. It’s the first in a series of 10 books that he is writing for HarperStudio—part of a deal he struck with Martha Stewart, who bought Lagasse’s branded products, including books, television show rights, cookware, spice line and more.

The deal paired the two culinary giants who share a passion for educating at-home chefs and homemakers. "Everything we do is in-house," Lagasse says. "I can stand up from my desk here and see the crafts, photo, test kitchens, bridal, cakes—it’s really cool to see people designing all the time."

The partnership, made official in April 2008, brought their operations together, but won’t compromise either one, Lagasse has said. (Not included in the deal were the 10 Emeril restaurants and his corporate home base in New Orleans.) Their styles vary greatly—Stewart offers soft-spoken instruction for dainty crafts, menus and gardening while Lagasse is known for his enthusiastic, party-atmosphere style of cooking that fires up the taste buds. He’ll bring that energy this month to the Naples Winter Wine Festival, where he will prepare a New Orleans-inspired vintner dinner at the home of Domaine Serene winery owners Ken and Grace Evenstad.

Having wrapped up his first new book, Lagasse is constantly creating—during our phone interview, he says he’s just planned the Evenstad dinner with his team based on the couple’s world-renowned pinot noir (see p. 83)—and is designing his New York test kitchen, educating children about the culinary arts through his Emeril Lagasse Foundation and moving on to his second Harper book, Emeril Express.

"This is my contribution and dedication to people who are so busy, like me and my wife, who want to put good meals on the table, but only have 30 to 45 minutes to do that," he says. Every meal in the book can be prepared in 45 minutes or less. Lagasse expects that a dessert book and one dedicated to organic cooking are next.

"Chefs are being more sensitive to what’s being consumed as far as ingredients are concerned … locally grown, no hormones …," Lagasse says of the organic movement. "It’s a part of everyday life now, not just a catch phrase in grocery stores."

Lagasse says his focus on organic cooking has been a part of his operation for 30 years in everything from raising his own hogs to creating recipes from scratch with local ingredients.

"We’ve been farming organically before people even knew how to spell it," he says, and he’s taking that expertise to television with his series Emeril Green on the Planet Green network. 

Lagasse will take a break from all of the projects he’s been cooking up to serve as chef de cuisine at the wine festival—a whirlwind weekend of planning, preparing food and entertaining Naples’ guests to the Evenstad’s dinner.

"It’s a great event—one of the best in the country," Lagasse says. "I’m honored to be honored again."

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