Following Emeril's New Orleans Journey
There are chefs, and there is Emeril. The man known by his trademark catchphrase “BAM!” is a New Orleans original, a chef who has introduced Creole cuisine to millions worldwide. You have seen him on television. You have seen his name brand products in grocery stores. If you’re an astronaut, you have eaten his meals while flying aboard the International Space Station. No one, it seems, can escape Lagasse’s remarkable charm.
Every chef has to start somewhere, right? Lagasse was raised in New England, but got his first long-term gig in New Orleans. He has stayed here, too, leaving a trail of culinary destinations across the city. Here are a few worth visiting.
After graduating from culinary school in 1978, Lagasse spent four years shuttling between restaurants in France, New York, Boston and Philadelphia. But New Orleans, and specifically Commander’s Palace, would become his home. He spent eight years there, perfecting his technique at the famous old-line Creole restaurant.
Today you can try some of the same classic dishes that Lagasse first learned to cook. Stop in for jazz brunch before exploring nearby Magazine Street’s six miles of shops and cafés. Another quintessential New Orleans experience is visiting one of the famed “cities of the dead”—at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, you can embark on a guided or self-guided tour of the mausoleums.
In 1990, Lagasse threw his hat in the ring with this namesake restaurant, located in an old pharmacy building in the Warehouse district. At Emeril’s you will find examples of the chef’s “new New Orleans” approach to fine dining, which brings new elements into old-school Louisiana cuisine. Try the andouille-crusted drum with Cajun sausage, fresh fish and locally sourced vegetables.
Since you’re already in the neighborhood, set out to discover some of New Orleans’ top destinations on foot. Among them are The National WWII Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the ever-popular Louisiana Children’s Museum. Shoppers rave about The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, a recently renovated shopper’s paradise overlooking the riverfront. And for a unique way to commemorate your visit, stop by Emeril’s Homebase for t-shirts and cookbooks.
“Southern fusion” is the best way to describe this French Quarter restaurant that Lagasse opened in 1992. Taste an impeccable combination of Creole, Cajun and soul food in dishes such as NOLA’s New Orleans-style crab cakes, as well as the cornmeal-crusted catfish, which comes with dirty rice and cracklins.
Since NOLA is near the epicenter of the French Quarter, you will find more things to do nearby than you can fit into a single trip. Here you will find historical tours (at the Historic New Orleans Collection) and shopping opportunities galore (at the French Market and The Shops at Jax Brewery), not to mention the innumerable photo ops throughout the nearly 300-year-old neighborhood.
Lagasse’s third and, to date, most recent New Orleans restaurant endeavor is Emeril’s Delmonico. In 1998, the chef opened the Creole fusion restaurant in a renovated Garden District building constructed in 1895. Lagasse and his team have captured the essence of New Orleans cooking in dishes that include stuffed mirliton (also known as chayote) and Louisiana drum with meunèire sauce.
Emeril’s Delmonico sits directly in front of the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. Hop on for a memorable ride uptown, where you will pass by dozens of historic mansions before arriving at the crown jewel of New Orleans’ green spaces, Audubon Park.
Hungry for more? Watch this Gumbo video featuring Emeril, Leah Chase, John Besh and other great chefs from Louisiana.