Enter Emeril Lagasse. First of all this amazing man accomplished what I thought would be impossible. He got the message out that it’s okay (and even cool) for “real men” to cook in the kitchen and not just on the patio.
He made gourmet cooking macho. Beefy men without necks would sit in his audience giving him their undivided attention as he explained the finer points in how to fricassee a chicken. They would erupt in hoots and cheers when, after looking at his audience with a mischievous look, he would add extra garlic to a dish, and then, like it’s an afterthought, add a bit more.
I’ve also discovered he knew something about loyalty. Anthony Bourdain, in his book, Medium Raw, recalls the time he and Emeril were visiting before an event. With genuine curiosity he asked Emeril why he continued to do it. At the time Emeril was being treated very shabbily by the television networks who were hosting his programs. Anthony could see he’d been hurt by it, and he asked him why he even cared. “You’ve got a large, well-respected restaurant empire…the cookbooks…the cookware line…presumably you’ve got plenty of loot. Why go on?”
“He didn’t elaborate. He smiled tolerantly, then began listing the number of children, ex-wives, employees (in the hundreds) working for Emeril Inc., establishing for him in quick, broad – and slightly sad – strokes the sheer size of the Beast that had to be fed every day in order for him to be Responsible Emeril, and do right by all the people who’d helped him along the way and who relied on him, in one way or another, for their living.”
Wow! Amazing! Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for enlightening me. I have long admired Emeril’s skills as a chef, showman, and marketer, but I had no idea of the responsibilities that came with his fame. I had always guessed he was a man of integrity, but I never really realized the depth of his character. The loyalty, the sacrifices, and the humble manner in which he imparts himself are indeed rare in this day and age. He is indeed one of a kind.