Emeril Lagasse hasn't mentored every chef in the United States, but just about every chef in the country considers him a mentor, you know?
He's a very kind person, with not one bad word to say about anyone else. (This reporter tried.) His philanthropic foundations have raised millions of dollars for children. He's a fantastic cook and restaurateur. And now he's also the host of an entertaining new travel show, Eat the World With Emeril Lagasse.
At just six episodes, the Amazon Prime show is essentially a miniseries. In each episode, a chef friend takes Lagasse to either the chef's favorite culinary destination or a location he's long wanted to know more about.
Mario Batali took him to Shanghai to learn all about xiao long bao. (For season two, Lagasse can just visit San Gabriel Valley!) Nancy Silverton took him to Italy's Amalfi Coast to meet Franco Pepe, the man she considers the best pizza maker on the planet.
Silverton herself is a pizza-making star, of course. Lagasse calls her a "god of dough." So if she says Pepe makes the best pizza in the world, then Pepe makes the best pizza in the world.
Lagasse has spent a good amount of time in Los Angeles over the years, starting in the late 1990s when he started doing television work in earnest. He fondly remembers the classic restaurants and chefs of that time, including Nancy Silverton's "awesome" Campanile, of course, and anything Michel Richard and Joachim Splichal put their hands on.
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The more recent restaurant explosion in L.A. he credits to the many cultures all alive and active in the city. "It's out of control. There are so many restaurants opening up here. It's unbelievable." Lagasse will concede that L.A. may be the most interesting food city in the United States, culturally speaking.
"In any place, if you can understand the culture, and the people, then you can understand the food. In L.A., there are so many cultures. You're constantly going on a food mission here. It used to be, a few Italian, a few French, the restaurants for the movie people. Now, in L.A., there's serious Thai, serious Korean, crazy chefs doing French interpretations, Roy Choi doing his work. ... It's not just ingredient-driven. It's the people and culture."
Lagasse is quite animated when he talks about the food scene in Los Angeles. But for all his passion for the city's new food culture, he stays true to his old favorites. "The Beverly Hills Hotel. That coffee shop that they have downstairs. I love that little place, I really do."
"Eat the World With Emeril Lagasse" premieres Sept. 2 on Amazon Prime Video.