Emeril Lagasse Serves Up Recipes for Young Cooks and Their Parents.
Emeril Lagasse might be the most famous chef in America. He has a wildly popular television show. He has several well-known restaurants, including three in New Orleans, Louisiana (one of which is still closed because of Hurricane Katrina). This past summer he prepared a special meal — freeze-dried jambalaya, a spicy stew — for astronauts on the space shuttle.
But when he started cooking, he was just a 7-year-old boy hanging out with his mom at home in Massachusetts.
His first major kitchen project was vegetable soup. He cooked a batch every day for four or five days straight. His mom, Hilda, would taste each one and tell him it was pretty good before suggesting that some ingredient be changed a bit or cooked a little more or a little less.
“When I got it right, she said, ‘This is how it should be. The vegetables are right; the broth is right. This is what we’re going to have for dinner tonight,’ ” said Lagasse (pronounced lah-GAS-ee). “And I was so proud.”
Working in the kitchen with his mom taught Lagasse how important it is for families to cook and eat together. That is why he lets his own young son and daughter help in the kitchen, and why he has written three cookbooks for kids and their parents.
“There’s a Chef in My World!” is his newest book, published this month. It has recipes from all over the globe for kids to cook — with parental supervision — and serve at family meals.
“Who wants to go to McDonald’s five days a week?” Lagasse asked. “I mean, that disgusts me.”
The recipes cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks — from basics including oven-baked German apple pancakes to more complicated dishes such as French chicken cordon bleu.
Each recipe includes clear directions and tips about what steps are best done by an adult or with one watching. There also is information about the country each dish comes from, including a map and a picture of its flag.
Easy Does It
On television, Lagasse is known for shouting “Pork fat rules!” or “Add some more butter!” But his cookbook recipes are somewhat healthier. For example, the Cuban sandwich in his new book uses pork tenderloin, which is much less fatty than the pork butt he has used on TV.
Lagasse’s book makes cooking sound easy — and it can be, if you follow directions carefully. But all cooks mess up sometimes. Lagasse’s worst disaster was when he tried to make a pineapple upside-down cake in Colorado, home of the Rocky Mountains. Because food cooks differently at higher elevations, his cake blew up in the oven, and his guests ended up eating ice cream and strawberries instead. (We doubt they minded much.)
Kids who want to become chefs should read about food and try lots of recipes, he said. And when they’re older they should work in a restaurant, washing dishes or setting tables to get a feel for restaurant life.
“It’s one of the best art forms I can think of,” Lagasse said of preparing food. “When you get done and give it to someone, you’re making people happy.”
– Debbi Wilgoren