THE ICON: Emeril Lagasse
THE LEGACY: Mention Emeril Lagasse and, more likely than not, a “Bam!” or a “Kick it up a notch!” will soon follow. But the celebrity chef’s culinary contributions to New Orleans run far deeper than those pithy, made-for-TV exclamations might suggest. Hired in 1985 as executive chef at Commander’s Palace, he took the torch — or the cast-iron skillet, as it were — from legendary Chef Paul Prudhomme, championing Creole and Cajun cooking for a worldwide audience. Armed with an oversized personality, keen culinary instincts and no small amount of business savvy, he built a restaurant, cookbook and media empire that has kept the fire burning for New Orleans food — and kicked things up a few notches along the way.
THE ARTIST: Connie Kittok, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “I invited Emeril into the kitchen (at Commander’s) and asked him what he thought of all the aromas wafting about. ‘Well, it kind of smells like my mom’s kitchen.’ It was a perfect answer — and completely sincere. That’s when I began to suspect we might have someone special.” — Ella Brennan, on Emeril Lagasse’s 1985 job interview, in her memoir “Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace”