Chef Emeril Lagasse passes the torch to his son by joining the family business: “He did it all alone”
Award-winning chef Emeril Lagasse has become a national figure as the host of several popular cooking shows. But in New Orleans, he is known for his flagship restaurant “Emeril’s”. It has been an institution in the city for over 30 years. His restaurant has undergone big changes thanks to the new young chef at its helm – EJ Lagasse.
Emeril’s 19-year-old son EJ said he fell in love with cooking when he was just a boy and knew it was what he was meant to be TO DO.
“Every young kid thinks I’m going to play a sport, be at the Olympics or something. That wasn’t what it was for me,” EJ said.
At the age of 10, he told his famous father about his own culinary aspirations.
“I sat them down for dinner. I just said, ‘By the way, guys, that’s what I’m going to do.’ And the first words he said were, “Are you sure about that?” and I was like, “Yeah, yeah,” EJ said.
“He did it on his own. I never had a conversation with him to tell him that’s what you have to do,” his father said.
He graduated from Culinary School last May and has apprenticed under renowned chefs in famous kitchens around the world. It was soon after that he began helping revamp the dining experience at his father’s restaurant, where just 60 guests a night are treated to a newly designed tasting menu. The menu is based on his father’s original dishes and influenced by chef Eric Ripert from Le Bernardin and chef Clare Smyth from Core.
The restaurant – his father’s first, of five currently in the Emeril’s Restaurants group, including two in New Orleans – opened in 1990, propelling Emeril’s to celebrity status with its approach to what has become nouvelle cuisine. of New Orleans. The elder Lagasse has since led cooking, travel and talk shows; launched a line of its own spice blends and later other branded foods and kitchen products; and author cookbooks.
EJ, now head chef at his father’s original eponymous restaurant in New Orleans, said the more personalized and smaller experience is the change the establishment needed to undergo to not remain stagnant.
“How can you expect chefs to walk through that back door with a hunger to grow within themselves?” he said.
He recently fell behind in creating the restaurant’s summer menu – putting his own spin on his father’s tried-and-true dishes, something his dad embraces.
For Emeril, his son’s changes are indicative of a greater evolution of the Emeril brand.
“In life, passing the torch isn’t as easy as it looks. But when you’re confident in passing the torch, it becomes much easier,” Emeril said.
“We create something out of absolute love, and so when we go in and do it with passion and respect for the past – and also an eye to the future – it’s the greatest joy ever,” said said EJ.