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Emeril Lagasse talks about plans for new TV show, new Vegas restaurant

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Photo: Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Emeril Lagasse Interview

Bam! Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse wants to kick up his Vegas success story even more. He’s seriously mulling not only a new Vegas-based television series but also a new restaurant concept to add to the four hit venues he already has on the Strip. This time, he’d partner up with Red Rocker pal, Sammy Hagar.

Emeril is as bullish on the Vegas dining scene as fellow star chef Mario Batali, who just a week ago announced his own plans for another new venue here. Emeril also plans a $2 million makeover of his upscale Lagasse’s Stadium sports bar at the Palazzo.

"People around the country have been copying it because its become so successful,” Emeril said.” We’re having a lot of fun with it so it's time to freshen it up and keep it leader of the pack.”

Emeril was the guest chef for a weekend poolside barbecue at the Venetian as part of the casino’s three-month summerlong Carnevale celebration. He served 1,500 guests before they listened to the Sammy Hagar poolside concert.

The New Orleans-headquartered chef and I have been friends for more than 20 years before the start of the Food Network and before he moved from Massachusetts to Louisiana. He has Delmonico’s steakhouse at the Venetian, his Fish House at MGM and the Table 10 and Stadium Sports Bar and Grill both at the Palazzo.

We managed to find a slightly cooler cabana to chat before he headed to the grills. I told him a week ago that Batali had told me how impressed with the current Vegas dining scene.

Emeril agreed: “Robin, I was in Paris three weeks ago. And you know what Paris means to you and I as foodies, right? Las Vegas is the hottest city for food right now that I can tell you about. Vegas is one of the most exciting cities for food right now because all the chefs are here. It’s unbelievable. Everything is here. I mean everybody is here, but not just like, 'OK, I’m gonna put my name on something.' They’re serving up really good food! I mean you want Thai, we’ve got Thai, you want Japanese, we’ve got Japanese, want American; we’ve got Italian, it’s unbelievable.

“I would love to expand what we already have in Vegas. If the opportunity was there I would love to. I would do a very authentic New Orleans restaurant or something with my buddy Sammy — a Cajun taco restaurant, but really upscale and good. High-end. What do you think of that? Put your hands around that. It would be great. Great music, great food, great fun. Isn’t that what Vegas is all about?

“He’s got Cabo Wabo, but think about if we put that New Orleans mix with it. Nobody’s done that before. Could be dynamite. That’s where we aiming! All fresh with roast meats and grilled marinated meals. I’d cook with all his drinks! You could eat barbequed shrimp and have a taco all at once.”

Emeril made a round-trip flight to attend the Carnevale barbecue. He continued: “I flew in from New Orleans last night with my family. Besides New Orleans being home, I’m also in the middle of shooting "Top Chef," so I’ve been working like crazy the last couple of weeks. It will air, the new season, at the end of September. Its my third year of judging. It's going to be a great season in New Orleans. We’ve got a lot of great talent. I can’t tell you who, but we have a very very talented lady chef from Las Vegas who is competing and doing very very well. She must remain a mystery for now even to you, Robin.

“We’ll showcase the amazing traditions of New Orleans for over 200 years as real cuisine — all the Spanish, the French, the African-American and now the Vietnamese cultures that make up our cuisine. When you understand the food you understand our people and our unique culture. "Top Chef" will bring that New Orleans spirit to everybody this fall."

Emeril is also getting ready to film the second season of his own show, "Emeril’s Florida," in September on the Cooking Channel.

"It’s a show based on the state of Florida. So it’s not only restaurants and food, it’s about farmers, fishermen, about fishing, about whatever has to do with food in Florida,” he explained. “I have my restaurant in Orlando. I have a beach house in the Panhandle and know a bit about Florida, so I’m trying to get people to discover what has not been shown before on television.

“The next one could be Emeril’s Nevada. If they did Emeril’s Nevada or Emeril’s Las Vegas, it would be fantastic! You told me there are now more than a dozen breweries in Vegas. I have a hog farm 14 miles from here. I have a chicken farm 10 miles from here and when I told people I was going to do a fish restaurant at the MGM they thought I was crazy; fish in the middle of the desert? They thought I’d gone crazy. There’s a lot to mine here with food that nobody knows is right in the desert!

“I’ve been very fortunate since coming here first in 1995. It really speaks to success when you look at all the competition that’s arrived here now. It keeps on getting better though. We’re doing the best we’ve ever done. We have great chefs working here, some are the name chefs and many are the future stars. This is the most exciting time for Vegas and I’m glad we’re part of it.”

After Sammy Hagar’s rock show and Emeril’s barbecue the two friends took off to party at the nearby Tao nightclub where they overlooked the club scene from an elevated VIP table. Naturally, in keeping with the celebrity status, both were mobbed by fans for photos. I think their joint venture will become a reality sooner than later — and it too will be mobbed!

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