Emeril Lagasse’s latest cookbook, Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh reflects his roots on his uncle’s farm. “It was instilled in me as a child, 7 or 8, I thought it was normal. I thought milking goats and chasing hogs and picking strawberries and vegetables was just what people did.” Now Emeril is sharing that love of food fresh food with kids of all ages.
In 2002, Emeril started the Emeril Lagasse Foundation (emeril.org) to focus on young people and the culinary arts.
The foundation has raised more than $10 million, supporting dozens of widely varied programs, one of which is his Edible Schoolyard of New Orleans. First, the grounds of the Samuel Green Charter School were transformed into an organic urban garden. More recently, his foundation revamped the school cafeteria and added a commercial-style open Edible Teaching Kitchen, where students learn to prepare fresh and nutritious meals with their own harvested produce, replacing the school’s processed lunches with hot entrees made from scratch daily.
In Las Vegas, Emeril partnered with tennis star Andre Agassi’s to introduce a similar student cafe at Agassi’s non-profit prep school.
To assist aspiring young chefs, Emeril funded an endowment that annually gives a full scholarship to one student at each of the four campuses of his culinary alma mater, Johnson & Wales. More recently, he decided to support even younger talent, partnering with a specialized school, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) via a recipe contest called A Dish That Makes a Difference. Three wining dishes, created by students as young as 13, are served in his trio of Big Easy eateries, Emeril’s, NOLA and Delmonico, with proceeds going back to the school’s culinary arts program.
He also enjoys cooking with his own children at home or on the road. “No matter where we are for the weekend, I love bringing my kids to the farmers’ market. Our house really revolves around food, so when we are getting ready for breakfast, we are already talking about what we are going to have for dinner. It’s definitely going to be fresh.”
—By Larry Olmstead