Emeril Live

Good Eats Canceled?

Good bye, Good Eats

In the annals of food television there have been five shows that have stood out from the rest by virtue of their importance to the genre.  The first four, I Love to Eat (James Beard), The French Chef (Julia Child), The Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr) and Emeril Live (Emeril Legasse) each made their indelible marks on food television by enticing people into their kitchens.

Cheflebrities Stuart Reb Donald and Alton Brown at Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-offThe fifth show, Good Eats, made its mark by teaching burgeoning home gourmets what to do in their new-found playground.  Alton Brown created, wrote, produced and starred in, “a smart and entertaining food show that blends wit with wisdom, history with pop culture, and science with common cooking sense.”  His words not mine.

Recently I heard a rumor that Food Network had canceled Good Eats so I started tugging on various grapevines to see what would shake loose.  My original sources were pretty reliable but I wanted to double-check before reporting something like “Good Eats Canceled.”

I contacted Alton’s publicist, Beau Benton and asked straight out if the rumor was true.  The answer?  No. . . and yes.

No.  Food Network did not cancel Good Eats.

Yes.  The show will soon be ceasing production for good.

The decision was Alton’s.  When I inquired about a press release or official statement Benton said, “He announced it on Twitter.”

Sure enough, “G.E. fans, I’ve decided to cut the half hour series at 249 eps. There will be 3 new 1 hour eps this year and that’s it. But mourn not. New things brew on the horizon…”good” things.”

I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Alton a few weeks ago.  We were both taking part in a fund-raiser in tiny Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Of all of the communities effected by the Oil Spill, Dauphin Island’s economy suffered the most losing 66% of its projected revenue for the summer of 2010 which included cancelling the world’s largest deep-sea fishing rodeo for the first time ever.  Camille, Frederick, Katrina, and Ivan couldn’t do that.  Alton gave of his time to help attract a record crowd to the island’s annual gumbo cook-off.

This is sure to leave Food Network fans feeling shell shocked.  Especially considering the May law suit that has halted production of another long standing hit series Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  If things do not work out in court that means that two of the network’s most popular shows would no longer be a part of their line-up.

Brown will still be on Iron Chef and there are hints of other projects in the works.  Recently, Alton and I got to speak a good bit about, well, everything and he was kind enough to answer 7 Questions. READ HERE.

I saw this Tweet from Tyler Florence to Alton.  It’s hysterical:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TylerFlorence/status/72821165185441792″]

Review: Fresh Food Fast with Emeril Lagasse

Emeril Legasse

I finally got a little more quality time with the Cooking Channel so I am attempting to review several of the shows I have not seen.  This time around Fresh Food Fast with Emeril Lagasse.

There are four kingpins that are responsible for the success of food-based television – James Beard, Julia Child, Graham Kerr (check out my interview with Kerr HERE) and Emeril Legasse.  Legasse was one of the chefs who formed the core of the Food Network’s early days and it was his show Emeril Live that made Food Network.  Without Legasse’s energy, humor and every-guy appeal the network probably looks different today if it survived at all.

Unfortunately, the catch phrases and schtick on Emeril Live eventually became its downfall.  The show had become a charecature of itself.  A few years back FN took it’s marquee show off the air.  For a while it moved over to the Fine Living Network in hopes that Legasse could kick up FLN’s ratings a notch.  It wasn’t enough.  Last year FLN became the Cooking Channel.  The change has proven a wise one.

There’s room on Cooking Channel for Legasse and it is not having to re-create the Emeril of old.  Fresh Food Fast is Emeril in a kitchen (a real kitchen not a set) putting together amazing recipes. Gone are the cries of BAM! and Pork Fat Rules! This Emeril is more under control, his recipes are healthier, most likely a byproduct of his Planet Green series dedicated to healthy, organic and sustainable food, Emeril Green.

While Emeril Green seemed like Legasse was being stuffed into a world that didn’t quite suit him, it did help him to find a happy medium between the calorically challenged recipes of Emeril Live and the über-wholesomeness of the recipes of Emeril GreenFresh Food Fast is that happy medium.  Sure the food is healthier than his old FN days but not as uninspired as the Planet Green show.

Best of all it is Emeril being Emeril.  He is congenial and entertaining without being over the top.  He’s doing a show for foodies again – people who don’t have to have a danceable beat and repetitive lyrics so they can blurt the chorus after just two listenings.  It’s a serious cooking show by one of the master’s of the genre.

10 Most Influential Chefs Part 1.

This is a ranking of the chefs I feel have had the greatest influence on the American culinary scene.  When the idea of ranking the 10 most influential chefs originally came to me the first thing I had to do was set out a criteria for my ranking.  Here’s what I asked myself:

  • Have they influenced younger chefs?
  • Have they had an influence on the American table?
  • Have they influenced the US dining scene?
  • Have they influenced home cooks?
  • Have they influenced me?

As with any of these types of lists debate will rage.  I invite, nay!  I implore you to use the comments section to offer your own critiques and substitutions.  Let’s get started shall we?

Michael Symon10. Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita, Bar Symon and The B Spot all in Ohio and Roast in Detroit).  The first controversial entry?  Before you go off thinking I’m nuts check this out.  In 2006 Symon opened Parea next door to Gramercy Tavern in New York City.  Though professional critics liked it (Bruni gave it 2 stars) the cynical New York diners said that Symon wasn’t ready for New York so it closed a year later.  The reality isn’t that Symon wasn’t ready for New York but rather New York wasn’t ready for Symon.  Right now virtually every New York restaurant is exploring the pig – pigs feet, pork belly, chocolate covered bacon – all of it is thanks to Chef Michael Symon.  Read my exclusive interview with Chef Symon HERE.

James Beard9. James Beard (Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. catering in New York, Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapés, Running Press). Julia Child dubbed Beard the “Dean of American Gastronomy” for introducing traditional French cuisine to a post WWII America.  He is the namesake of the James Beard Foundation as well as the first celebrity chef having hosted the first cooking show in television history.  Beard established and taught at The James Beard Cooking School (New York City and Seaside, Oregon) and he, more than anyone else, is responsible for creating the New York fine dining scene.  Frankly, Chef James Beard should be much higher on this list.  Even though professionals grasp his importance, unfortunately most home cooks are unaware of his place in culinary history.  Chef Beard left us in 1985 but his mark is firmly affixed to every great meal in America.  Beard’s grounding breaking 1940 cookbook Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapés is still available at amazon.com.

Graham Kerr8. Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet, The Graham Kerr Show and countless other TV shows and cookbooks).  Kerr was the third celebrity chef in American history following chronologically behind James Beard and Julia Child but at his peek he was more famous than his contemporaries by a country mile.  His story is interesting, a Scot cooking French cuisine who became famous in New Zealand before coming to the New World to become a star (read more HERE).  Kerr’s jovial personality made him the perfect cooking show host because you didn’t have to care about food to be entertained.  Weight Watchers, in an amazing stroke of hypocrisy, once proclaimed Kerr “public enemy number one” for his high fat, high calorie French cuisine.  Today Chef Graham Kerr is known for reinventing his cooking style with his Mini-Max approach – minimize the fat and calories and maximize the flavor while Weight Watchers is the poster child for overly processed Frakenfoods.

Bobby Flay7. Bobby Flay (Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, New York City, and in The Bahamas; Bar Americain in New York City and Uncasville, Connecticut; Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Bobby’s Burger Palace – a regional chain).  Another controversial pick?  Hardly.  Whether you like Bobby Flay or hate him you know who he is and what he does.  He was one of the first Food Network hires.  He was the executive chef of a popular NYC restaurant at age 19.  He was the top graduate in the first class ever at New York’s esteemed French Culinary Institute.  He pioneered the Spanish/tapas craze.  All noteworthy credentials but he makes the list because Flay has done more with Southwestern cuisine than anyone else.  Quite honestly Southwestern maybe the culmination of 230+ years of American food.  It employees the techniques of French cuisine with Southern and Tex-Mex along with a strong native American influence as well.  It’s bold, innovative flavors are the very embodiment of the American spirit and there is no finer practitioner than Chef Bobby Flay.  For more on Flay check out my exclusive interview done in 2007.

Emeril Legasse6. Emeril Legasse (Emeril’s Chop House and BAM in Bethlehem, PA, Emeril’s in Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami Beach and New Orleans, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando, NOLA in New Orleans,  Delmonico in New Orleans and Las Vegas, Table 10 and Lagasse’s Stadium in Las Vegas).  Legasse has his fair share of haters and people who believe that he is more character than chef.  However, Emeril is as beloved a chef as this nation has ever seen.  He has set the standard for how a cheflebrity should conduct business, fair but firm.  He takes care of his people ( check out his post-Katrina efforts sometime) and he truly is an amazing chef.  Keep in mind that he convinced the famed Brannan family of New Orleans to turn over the reigns of the Commander’s Palace after Paul Prudhomme left to open K-Paul’s to an unknown Yankee chef from Fall River, MA.  That turned out OK didn’t it?  But the main reason that Emeril makes the cut is because of his TV work.  To put it bluntly the success of Food Network is solely attributed to Legasse’s show Emeril Live which literally put the network on the national radar.  It made the network and his work on the show turned a generation of drive-thru devotees into home cooks.  That is substantial by anyone’s criteria.  Without Chef Emeril Legasse there might not be a Food Network today.

There’s the first half of my list of the 10 Most Influential Chefs.  Check HERE for the top 5 chefs.

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7 Questions with Sarina Nicole

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

One common misconception among American diners is that all Latin American food is the same; it’s all Mexican food.  Well, dear reader, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Very few Americans have ever eaten real Mexican food.

First off, what most people think of as Mexican food is not.  Nachos?  American food.  Burritos?  American food.  Crunchy tacos?  American food.  Flour tortillas?  American food.  Yellow cheese?  English food.  Sure in Mexico they eat pinto beans and rice and tomatoes and chilies but so do the folks in New Orleans.  But that does not make gumbo Mexican food.

Few people understand this better than food blogger Sarina Nicole.  Nicole is a true Caribbean girl – half Trinidadian, half Jamaican.  She has dedicated her blog, TriniGourmet.com to educating people to the vast array of foods to be found in Trinidad and Tobago and how it differs from the cuisines of other Latin American countries.

According to her web site her, “. . . motivations are many, however the main impetus is that I feel that for too long now the cuisine of the Caribbean, and especially that of my native Trinidad has remained unexplored by the larger global market.”

Recently the foodie with the movie star smile was nice enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Sarina Nicole of TriniGourmet.comI was definitely a late bloomer when it came to moving around a kitchen. Growing up, as an only child, I spent most of my time in the kitchen watching my mother cook. She was a prolific recipe collector with a passion for international cuisine, something that definitely rubbed off on me. However, the kitchen was very much her domain and the message was clear that though I was free to watch, I was also expected to stay out of her way. As a result I never really developed any clear understanding of how to handle ingredients, knives, or even a flame/oven! By the time I entered college, I was in the peculiar position of being familiar with a wide range of recipes, influences, and culinary approaches without actually being able to prepare anything more complex than a grilled cheese sandwich!

It wasn’t until my junior year, during an off-campus summer internship, and no college kitchen staff in sight, that I finally came to the realization at the ripe old age of 20 that one can not subsist indefinitely on frosted flakes, ramen and mac ‘n cheese!  For the first time I had access to the Food Network and Emeril Live! was just becoming a phenomenon. His enthusiasm and ‘plain speak’ made me feel that I too could do this. My landlady also had a subscription to Cooking Light magazine that she no longer was interested in. Somehow between the two a light went off in my head and I vividly remember making my first real shopping list, taking a taxi to the nearest Stop ‘n Shop and heading pack to my sublet with a backpack full of ingredients. Needless to say however the first few products of those efforts were pretty near inedible! An exceptionally gritty spinach salad comes to mind :)

2. Can you describe the unique characteristics of Trini food?

Trini food is especially unique because of the diversity of nationalities which have contributed to our culinary vocabulary. Demographically Africans and East Indians make up the majority of the population and those heritages are probably the most immediately recognizable on any menu, however the Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, and Portugese communities have also made their mark on our gastronomic lexicon. Centuries of Spanish, French and English occupation have also influenced our technical approach to creating traditional fare. Put it all together and we have a cuisine which is unlike any other in the region and one which can present different faces to the visitor depending on the time of the year in which they visit, and the community in which they stay.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Without a doubt Mario Batali has probably had the greatest influence on my culinary point of view. His seasonal approach to using the freshest ingredients, and his emphasis on allowing the essence of a main ingredient to shine in as unmasked a form as possible has really shaped my improvisational abilities, as well as how I interpret and re-interpret the dishes that I have grown up with.

4. What would you tell someone who thinks that every Latin American country eats the same food?

It’s a common misconception that the foods of the Caribbean and Latin American are fairly homogeneous. Some of this is because of the narrow range that gets commercialized overseas, the other is the sparsity of actual local content in terms of what tourists get served at the most common hotels around the region. Adding even more confusion for the casual visitor is the fact that many times the same names are used across countries for dishes/ingredients that can vary quite widely!  To really understand each country’s cuisine is to take a dip into its history, both agricultural and political. Geographic and trade differences often determine whether the primary starches will be corn, root vegetables or rice and whether key proteins are fish, chicken, or beef. Migration and colonization also affect the approaches and spices which play a prominent role.

The following links provide more detail than I can get into here :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_American_cuisine

5. In your opinion, what are the signature flavors of Trinidadian food?

Like Guyana, (and unlike the rest of the Caribbean islands) we have a very strong East Indian demographic. This has shaped and contributed to our own appreciation and desires for intensely seasoned and spiced fare (cumin or “geera” is particularly important). The African contribution for me is especially prevalent in our stewing and ‘browning’ (caramelization) of meats in sugar. This is a step that has always intrigued my Jamaican mother, but it is integral to getting the key flavors of many of our meat-based Creole dishes. Also notable is our propensity towards garlic-based marinades and sauces as well a liberal love of ‘chadon beni’ or ‘bandhania  (also known as culantro) for both seasoning meats and enhancing the final taste of a dish.

6. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, what would you have for dessert?

Oh, that’s an interesting one! There is a small bunch of eclectic historical figures whose stories intrigue me. Anna Pavlova, Olaudah Equiano, Napoleon Hill, Booker T Washington, Hildegard von Bingen. However for dinner I think I would want to sit with the person who is probably the newest (and much belated addition) to my list, Julia Child. We could swap memories of Smith College over croquembouche and turkish coffee and I could find out what/if anything she knew about Caribbean/Trinidad cuisine. Nice dream I think! :)

7. What’s next for Sarina Nicole?

I’ve been running Trinigourmet since 2006 and it really is a labor of love. In the past year I have gotten more involved in the social media side of connecting with readers and other food bloggers and I’ve really been inspired by the support it has received. Emails and interactions with Trinidadians and those of Trinidadian descent who now live all over the world has made me realize that food is an integral part of our connection to our families, and a shared historical/cultural identity that is highly emotional and powerfully healing at times. The site has evolved since its inception and no doubt it will continue to do so. There is a greater emphasis now on meat-free, as well as gluten-free, dishes now because of food allergies and other dietary restrictions in my home. At first I thought this would cause a huge revolt among my readership but I have been surprised and moved by the response of local residents who also have dietary restrictions (either because of religious or health constraints) and often felt invisible/dismissed in terms of local options and accommodation both by friends, family and eating establishments.

Moving into 2011 I would like to present and offer more recipe options for these people (who are no less passionate or patriotic). I also am considering the creation of more multimedia content (something I dabbled with this year for the first time). I have also started receiving inquiries for books so I definitely will be looking into some product launches as well. The sky is the limit and the more Caribbean voices that join the conversation, the more the true variety of the region will become clear to all :)

I’ve been running Trinigourmet since 2006 and it really is a labour of love. In the past year I have gotten more involved in the social media side of connecting with readers and other food bloggers and I’ve really been inspired by the support it has received. Emails and interactions with Trinidadians and those of Trinidadian descent who now live all over the world has made me realize that food is an integral part of our connection to our families, and a shared historical/cultural identity that is highly emotional and powerfully healing at times. The site has evolved since its inception and no doubt it will continue to do so. There is a greater emphasis now on meat-free, as well as gluten-free, dishes now because of food allergies and other dietary restrictions in my home. At first I thought this would cause a huge revolt among my readership but I have been surprised and moved by the response of local residents who also have dietary restrictions (either because of religious or health contstraints) and often felt invisible/dismissed in terms of local options and accommodation both by friends, family and eating establishments.

Moving into 2011 I would like to present and offer more recipe options for these people (who are no less passionate or patriotic). I also am considering the creation of more multimedia content (something I dabbled with this year for the first time). I have also started receiving inquiries for books so I definitely will be looking into some product launches as well. The sky is the limit and the more Caribbean voices that join the conversation, the more the true variety of the region will become clear to all :)

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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