Chefs Make Change: Emeril Lagasse
Emeril Lagasse has created an extraordinary number of ways to help at-risk children in the areas where his restaurants operate: educational programs, life-skills development, culinary training and cultural enrichment. A recent success is the culinary arts program for high school kids at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). emeril.org.
His Philosophy “If you think big, then it’s going to be big.”
On Launching his Foundation “I was on the board of Andre Agassi’s foundation, and seeing the way it operated blew my mind. In 2002, I told my wife, I want to start a foundation to give back, I want it to be for kids in hard circumstances, and I want it to be culinary-driven, because that’s who I am.”
His Recipe Contest “This was for kids at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. We tested all the recipes, then brought in a panel to judge the final three. They were so good we had three winners; all three went on restaurant menus throughout the city. For every order, a dollar went to the foundation. We raised $60,000 for the school’s kitchen and culinary-arts studio.”
Inspiring Story “Twenty-eight years ago, a boy came to see me when I was chef at Commander’s Palace. He had dropped out of school and was probably an eighth of an inch from going over the cliff because of all the drugs and crime in his neighborhood. I made a deal with him: I told him, ‘If you get your high school diploma, I’ll teach you how to cook.’ Today, he’s one of my culinary directors.”
What’s Next “We’re setting up an urban farm for kids on more than 20 acres in New Orleans. We want to make this a world-class educational center for the community.”
His Radish Recipe for F&W “Radishes grow just about anywhere. People think, ‘Oh it’s just a radish.’ But radishes are delicious, and people don’t think of cooking them.”