(CNN) — Call him “Mr. Bam,” the “Elvis of TV chefs” or simply Emeril, this forerunner of “New New Orleans” cuisine has a name that precedes him.
As one of the first hosts on the original Food Network line-up, Emeril Lagasse not only put the Big Easy on the map — he elevated the role of chef to superstar status.
It might come as a surprise that the ambassador of New Orleans cuisine is actually a Yankee, raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, and earning his culinary chops at Johnson and Wales University.
Lagasse turned down a full music scholarship to go to culinary school.
After training under fine dining chefs at restaurants in Paris and Lyon in France and New York City, Boston and Philadelphia in America, Lagasse was tapped by restaurateurs Dick and Ella Brennan to oversee New Orleans institution Commander’s Palace.
He started exploring New Orleans right away.
“If I could understand the culture, I could understand the people. And if I understood the culture and the people, I could understand the food. And that’s how I approached it,” Lagasse says.
Emeril Lagasse is a household name who got his start when he moved to New Orleans to take over iconic Commander’s Palace, eventually leading to a TV show that propelled him and Creole cuisine into popular culture.
For more than 30 years, Emeril Lagasse has built an empire on the elevated traditions of contemporary Creole and Cajun foods that includes 11 restaurants, 19 best-selling cookbooks, a dozen prestigious awards, a handful of TV shows, an eponymous philanthropy foundation and an entire grocery and cookware line.
He’s even had his recipes launched into space for the crew aboard NASA’s shuttle Discovery, making him one of the few chefs to go completely out of this world.
Pho Tau Bay
The Warehouse District
New Orleans’ Warehouse District sprung up in the 19th century to store goods passing through the port.
Jeff Greenberg/UIG/Getty Images
Davenport Lounge at The Ritz Carlton
The bar at Emeril’s New Orleans
Carly Fisher is an award-winning journalist and author whose work has been featured in publications like GQ, CNN, Fodors Travel, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Brides, Saveur, Edible and NBC. She lives and works in Brooklyn, where she is currently working on her first book through The Countryman Press due 2019.