Emeril, attitude make big difference
While the governors were discussing insurance and finance at the Southern Governors’ Association in Biloxi on Saturday, the governors’ spouses were witnessing the Coast’s comeback first hand over lunch at Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House.
Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and his wife, Alden, welcomed the delegation to the restaurant at Island View Casino in Gulfport. Among the guests were first ladies Marsha Barbour of Mississippi, Patsy Riley of Alabama and Jenny Sanford of South Carolina, Coach Blanco, husband of Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and Assistant Secretary Anne Petera of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security.
The organizers of the Southern Governors’ annual meeting asked Lagasse to host the luncheon to give the group a taste of how the Coast is recovering. They also will tour areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
From Emeril’s New Orleans-style Barbecued Shrimp to the Gulf speckled trout and his signature banana cream pie, the group raved about the food and hospitality at Emeril’s. Riley was happy to take home the recipe for barbecued shrimp because the staff prepares the majority of the dinners at the Alabama governor’s mansion.
“It’s a great gift to the Coast to have him here,” said Blanco, who knows Lagasse from his restaurants in New Orleans and his commitment to recovery in the two states.
After talking with Sun Herald Publisher Ricky Matthews, Blanco said “I’m very impressed here in Mississippi with the positive ‘let’s get it done’ attitude.” The press is very negative in Louisiana, he said. “I think it’s day and night from there to here.”
He feels a big reason New Orleans is slow to recover is the four weeks it took after the storm before anyone was allowed back in the city. “It broke people’s spirit.”
He carries the numbers with him to show the impact of The Road Home program that is helping residents rebuild their homes or sell their property to the state and he praises his wife. “She never breaks. She never blames. She’s steady.”
Sanford said South Carolina is due for another hurricane. “We’ve had tremendous growth on our Coast,” she said. She worries that those who have never been through a storm may be complacent.
Barbour said hosting the group at Emeril’s, “just shows how we recovered.”
By MARY PEREZ