Emeril Lagasse, CEO of the Emeril Empire, is the definition of celebrity chef and has changed how most of the world sees restaurants and culinary professionals. Through his cooking shows and books, Emeril has made chefs more human and approachable. Chefs are no longer snobbish overseers who disdain any customer request, but rather hard working, passionate professionals who love food and love to make people happy.
As a teenager, Emeril got his start in the food industry making bread and pastries at a Portuguese bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts. After high school, Emeril turned down a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music to pursue his true passion, cooking. He attended Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island where he received his degree in culinary arts. Later in his career he would receive an honorary doctorate from JWU.
After college, Emeril apprenticed in the French kitchens of Paris and Lyons. He returned to the United States to work in restaurants in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. He was noticed by New Orleans matriarch Ella Brennan of Commanders Palace, who convinced Emeril to come to the Big Easy. At the age of 26, Emeril became the executive chef of the historic Commanders Palace, which he oversaw for the next eight years.
In 1990, Emeril opened his own restaurant in New Orleans, Emerils, to huge success. In 1991, the James Beard Foundation named him Best Southeast Regional Chef.
His success continued with the opening of nine other restaurants: NOLA (1992), Emerils New Orleans Fish House Las Vegas (1995), Delmonico New Orleans (1998), Emerils Orlando at Universal Studios (1999), Delmonico Steakhouse Las Vegas (1999), Emerils Tchoup Chop Orlando (2002), Emerils Atlanta (2003), and Emerils Miami Beach (2003).
Emeril became a TV personality in 1993, when he joined the Food Network. His hit shows Emeril Live and the Essence of Emeril have made Emeril Lagasse a household name, along with his catchphrases Bam! and Kick it up a notch!.
In 2002, Emeril started the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, a charity organization whose mission is to improve the lives of young people.