Interview with Chef Emeril Lagasse, Part II
Yesterday, we shared Part I of our interview with legendary chef Emeril Lagasse. If you missed it, here it is. We now present Part II of our interview.
Clean Plate Charlie: Where did Bam! come from?
Emeril Lagasse: Bam! came from the second or third run of Essence of Emeril. I've always used Kick it up a Notch, meaning the level of spice relating to Louisiana cooking. We were filming eight half hour shows a a day, which is unheard of. So this being a cooking show without an audience, we would shoot for long hours. There was all this crew and we would do three or four shows and break for lunch and the crew would want to eat everything we cooked during filming.
So after we got back from break, I was losing everybody. I was losing these guys like they needed a food nap so that's where Bam! came in. Bam! was my expression for waking everyone up.
So were you on the Food Network by then.
Yes. I remember when we made one million homes. It's100 million homes now. I remember when we got to one million we celebrated and got beers. From one million we went to five million, then 12 million. Then it was a really big deal. and it just grew.
Do the people coming up now thank you for paving the way for them?
I think there are colleagues there that respect the road that was paved. I'm just not wrapped up in that stuff.
So you've split up your empire with Martha Stewart, but you're still in control of your restaurants?
Totally. About three years ago I sold my interest in mostly my proprietary licensing position, which is excluding my restaurants, my foundation and real estate. So that's basically the television library, future publishing, licensing, etc. A lot of that was strictly not from a monetary prospective but from a branding prospective.
I'd been wanting to grow that area of the business. I'm pretty good at it, but also from doing a lot of analysis and talking with a lot of people, not only on Wall Street but friends of mine like Wolfgang (Puck), I had to make a decision whether I was going to do that internally. But there was a cost in doing that, about $10-15 million to put the support team and systems in place that I didn't already have in place whereas Martha already had that in place.
I'll tell you a funny story that I haven't shared with a lot of people. I wasn't selling my deal. Martha's Chairman used to come to Emeril Live with his grandkids. I knew him when he was in the music business for 20 years before he was even with Martha Stewart. My friend was the president and CEO of BMI worldwide and Charles had worked for him. After Charles had come to the show a few times with his grandkids, I said that I'd like to have a meeting with him. So we went to have coffee.
I told him there's so much talent that the Food Network has that they're wasting. What I would do if I were Martha is, I would build another arena and I would go and hire or buy that talent and put them in my stall and grow the brand at the same time. I gave him examples of who I thought was great. This was before Rachel Ray had her own show. I didn't go there saying "me", I went to tell him that there was talent and an incredible opportunity for the MSO brand to grow - I mean Martha is only one lady.
A few weeks later he wanted to meet for coffee and we sat down and he said he talked with Martha and it was a great idea but she's not interested in any of those people - she's interested in you. And that's how our relationship started.
I understand you're planning to open some more restaurants this year.
The restaurants are really the foundation and the backbone of everything. By the end of the year we're probably going to do a restaurant in Charlotte. It's not my push. It's going back to the people who have been with me a long time. They want to keep growing and they say "come on chef, let's do one more"!
Stay tuned for a recipe from Chef Emeril, coming soon.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Find out about upcoming events and special offers happening in the South Florida dining scene.