Chef, restaurateur, TV personality and author Emeril Lagasse reveals the secret recipe for success at the 21st Century Business Forum

Emeril Lagasse

You might say the “Bam!” » moment in the life of a famous pioneer chef Emeril Lagasse came many years ago thanks to a pastry chef he admired.

The pastry chef introduced Lagasse to the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz.

“It’s a motivational book, but it changed my thinking, because if you don’t think big, maybe you’re not going to be big,” Lagasse said. “If you think small, that’s probably what you’ll become.”

Lagasse opened up about dreaming big and his journey to culinary success on the May episode of 21st Century Business Foruma webcast that features monthly one-on-one interviews with some of the country’s most prominent business minds and thought leaders. Click here to see the program with Lagasse on demand.

Lagasse opened his flagship restaurant Emeril’s in New Orleans in 1990 and a few years later was approached by a production company creating shows for a new network focused on food and wine. “How to Boil Water,” Lagasse’s initial show for The Food Network, would morph into “The Essence of Emeril,” which would turn the chef into a celebrity and put the network on the map.

A few seasons into the show, Lagasse said, he and his then-agent Shep Gordon were walking around New York City and “people were screaming out the window ‘Emeril’s trademark “Bam!” to the two men as taxi drivers honked their horns. All the attention led Gordon to say that Emeril “could have an impact on this thing called television“.

“It became apparent to me that people wanted more…from Emeril, and how was I going to do that?” said Lagasse.

The Lagasse entrepreneur would meet that demand for more by creating cookbooks – the first of his 19 being “New New Orleans Cooking” – and starting a spice business with Gordon so viewers could take home the flavors featured on his show. Later, he would expand his business base with a range of cookware and cutlery bearing his name.

As befits a chef who works in the kitchen, Lagasse said he was also “very, very involved in the creation” of these products with the manufacturers.

“Today a lot of these guys and girls – without mentioning names – just put their names to things they don’t even know what it looks like, how heavy it is, what it’s gonna look like, how it’s gonna last ,” he said.

For Lagasse, quality is paramount, which is why he sets high standards not just for his chefs, but for everyone on his team.

“Whether you’re a waiter or a dishwasher, there’s no compromise on the quality level of where we want to be,” Lagasse said.

He said he also doesn’t ask people to do anything he won’t do in this quest for quality.

“If I bend down and pick up a piece of paper that someone dropped in the bathroom or near the front door, I expect you can pick up the piece of paper as well. “

the 21st Century Business Forum offers monthly one-on-one interviews with some of the country’s most prominent business minds and thought leaders. It is presented by BizTimes Media and sponsored by Johnson Financial Group.

Karl M. Bailey