In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Emeril Lagasse is a food legend, and for good reason. The chef has been in the kitchen mixing things up for almost 40 years, and his 13 restaurants—which are situated everywhere from New Orleans to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—have helped America discover what creole cuisine is all about.
Beyond his role in the kitchen, Lagasse is also a television personality, having hosted a number of wildly successful shows across different networks and appearing as a judge on shows like Top Chef. His latest project is Amazon’s Eat The World With Emeril Lagasse, which finds the chef traveling the world with pals like Mario Batali and José Andrés, all while searching for unique and delicious dining experiences. It’s available to stream now for all Amazon Prime subscribers.
1. What’s a question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Emeril Lagasse: What did you have for dinner last night?
The A.V. Club: What did you have?
EL: I was with my friend at a Greek restaurant, and he and I had langoustines and swordfish and lamb chops.
2. If you could ride a giant version of an animal to work every day, what kind of animal would it be?
EL: And nobody’s ever said a dog, right?
AVC: People have said dogs, but you could say it again. What kind of dog?
EL: I have a boxer. His name is Buddy. And I would bring Buddy.
3. What movie have you seen the most?
EL: I would say definitely The Godfather.
AVC: The first one?
EL: Pretty much all of them.
AVC: Why those?
EL: I’m fascinated with the characters, and I’m fascinated with the story.
Second would probably be Rocky.
AVC: Those are all movies that are on TV a lot. You can just pop in and watch parts of them.
EL: Exactly. But that’s changing. Now you can stream.
Have you seen my new show?
AVC: I have, yes. I liked it. Your show is streaming, come to think of it. It’s nice to have access to food shows online, especially because I like to travel a lot. If I’m going to Bangkok, I can say, “Let’s see where Emeril said I should go in Bangkok,” and then write down your picks.
EL: That’s because you’re smart.
4. What’s a stupid thing you incorrectly believed for a long time?
EL: I bet you a lot of people say Santa Claus, huh?
AVC: I’ve never heard that one, but it’s a good choice. Is that your answer?
EL: That’s my final answer. I’m sticking with it.
5. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard about yourself that isn’t true?
EL: That I’m not a nice guy.
AVC: Who would say that?
EL: Oh, people say that. But that’s their opinion. I’m really a nice guy!
6. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
AVC: What was that like?
EL: It was interesting. I liked it, but it was interesting. I mean, you don’t just necessarily go to a restaurant to order cockscomb.
AVC: Where did you get it?
EL: I got it in a restaurant but I won’t tell you where. It wasn’t one of mine. And it wasn’t in Chicago or New York.
AVC: How was it prepared?
EL: They sort of poached it, and crisped it up real quick. It was kind of weird.
AVC: Oftentimes these answers revolve around items with weird textures.
EL: Yeah, it didn’t have a great texture either.
7. What was the first concert you ever went to?
EL: Edgar Winters. No, I take that back. The James Gang.
AVC: Joe Walsh!
EL: That was a long time ago, Marah. A long time ago.
AVC: Do you remember where it was?
EL: Yeah, it was in Providence, Rhode Island.
8. What’s the most interesting opportunity you’ve gotten through your work?
EL: You know, I’ve cooked for a lot of different people, but I’d say cooking for Julia Child was pretty amazing.
AVC: Did you feel pressure to do well?
EL: No, I just wanted her to get what I was doing, and feel what I was doing, both from a cultural standpoint and also if you can understand culture and understand people then you can understand the food. I think that she really got that, because afterwards, later on, she invited me to do some dishes for her TV show.
AVC: I imagine you’ve cooked for presidents and all sorts of different people.
EL: Yeah, a lot of people. Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Sammy Hagar, a lot of rock ’n’ roll people.
9. What embarrassing phase did you go through?
AVC: Were you a weird teenager?
EL: My embarrassing phase was probably being humbled about having an ego.
AVC: When was that?
EL: I was at Commander’s Palace, actually. I was young and hotheaded, and Ella Brennan just wrote on a piece of paper and handed it to me. Afterwards I read it, and it said, “Next time, please leave your ego at home.” And so I did.
AVC: What were you doing that got you called out?
EL: Well, it was in the middle of service, and I probably was getting just a little bit too loud, maybe making too many demands or commands.
AVC: And she wasn’t having it.
10. Have you ever stolen anything, and if so, what?
EL: No, no. Well, maybe a pumpkin from a neighbor’s stoop when I was younger at Halloween.
AVC: That counts.
EL: I’ve never really gone in said and, “Let’s get these socks, that would be fun.”
AVC: Were you and your friends Halloween troublemakers?
EL: Yeah. Just for a short time though.
11: Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
EL: That’s tough. I’ve met a lot of interesting people.
AVC: Maybe a president?
EL: Nah, I’m not impressed with them. I have met a few, but I’m not impressed with them.
I mean, I’ve been very fortunate, because I’ve cooked for a lot of actors and actresses and musicians. I’ve cooked for presidents and I’ve been to the White House… I mentioned Julia. That’s a tough one.
AVC: Well, that’s a good problem to have, I suppose. At least, as long as most of those people were nice or at least interesting.
EL: I’ve never really had a problem with people.
I cooked for Frank Sinatra. Do they have to be living?
AVC: No, they don’t have to be living. Frank Sinatra’s a good one.
EL: Yeah, Frank Sinatra was an interesting evening. He stole all my silverware from my restaurant.
AVC: Did he take food to go? Or did eat there and then just walk out with all the silverware?
EL: He was just stealing silverware off the table. Then the next day, the general manager of the hotel he was staying at called me and said, “You might want to send somebody over, or come over yourself. I have a whole bunch of your silverware that was left in the hotel room.”
Bonus 12th question from Kevin McDonald: What’s your favorite song from Jesus Christ Superstar?
EL: I would say that song, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
I happened to play in Jesus Christ Superstar.
AVC: You did? What were you?
EL: I was a percussionist.
AVC: What do you want to ask the next person, not knowing who you’re asking?
EL: Who do you think is the greatest chef in America right now?
AVC: Do you have an answer for that one? It’s a toughie.
EL: It is a toughie. There’s too many of them out there. Maybe I shouldn’t leave it so broad. I’m going to change it. “What is your favorite New Orleans dish?”
AVC: That one’s a little bit easier. Do you have a favorite? Or does it vary from day to day?
EL: It varies from day to day, but I bet you’ll get a lot of gumbo, red beans and rice, and perhaps po’boys.