NYCWFF: 5 Minutes With Emeril Lagasse

By Kelly Dobkin  |  October 19, 2013

NYCWFF is in full swing and earlier today, food TV legend Emeril Lagasse took to the stage for his first TimesTalk with journalist Kim Severson. We caught up with the Top Chef judge very briefly in the green room just before to ask about the show, his possible restaurant project with rocker Sammy Hagar and how food TV drives restaurant traffic. Check out our chat below.

Zagat: How was it filming Top Chef in your hometown of New Orleans this time around?
Emeril Lagasse:
It was absolutely fantastic. Not only the contestants and obviously the cast but being able to show them what a great food city it really is. And how it’s changed - it’s evolved. There are a lot of new things happening as well and a lot of ethnic things, particularly Vietnamese. It was really awesome, and sleeping in my own bed was nice.

Zagat: We’re only a few episodes in, but do you think the show has portrayed New Orleans as you see it?
: I’ve been involved with a few seasons now and this is a good one. The talent really makes for a good season, and you don’t really know what you’re going to get in the beginning in the first couple of episodes. But it’s really a good one and it’s only going to keep getting better.

Zagat: Do you think Padma's Picks (a special web series during which Padma pre-selected the NOLA chefs) added a good new dimension to this season?
: It provided [a way for] some local talent to get in and get on, and you never know what the outcome’s going to be. But when it comes down to it, it started with five and now it’s two that have gotten on. They’re really strong guys.

Zagat: When you first started out on TV, you were more of an entertainer and instructor. Now that you do so many different kinds of shows (judging reality TV for example), what’s your favorite thing to do?
I mean what really is at the backbone - and has been for 35-plus years  - is my restaurants. I’m a restaurant guy. I’m a cook, and I love taking care of people and serving people and leading people to do that. That’s really what presses the button.

Zagat: Any new restaurant projects?
Nothing right now. We just did a renovation at Tchoup Chop and we’re getting ready to do one at the Fish House, and we’re going to do one in Orlando. So it’s one of those years where we're just trying to improve across the board.

Zagat: Are you opening a restaurant with Sammy Hagar?
We’ve talked about it - we have a concept in mind, not a concrete plan yet. We’ve done this event for 10 years together. He’s actually going to be our guest musician for a Carnival event in a couple of weeks in New Orleans for my foundation. We’re really good friends.

Zagat: The food-TV machine has always driven restaurant traffic, especially for you I’m sure. Do you think that’s intensified in the last 10 years?
I wouldn’t say that opposed to 10 or 15 years ago TV is driving more, but it’s obviously driving traffic. I think it’s become so everyday for people, which is a good thing for food, service and the hospitality industry. I mean, supermarkets even - look what it’s done in that space. So I don’t think it’s outrageous, just that people are so aware of it these days. They're more aware of what goes on in this industry now.