On Monday night, I was in the audience at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, watching Emeril Lagasse choke up a little when he accepted the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year. (Disclosure: I serve on the JFB awards committee, which chooses both the humanitarian and Lifetime Achievement honors).
On Wednesday night, I was in a tiny office at Belks, one of a line of local journalists waiting for a few minutes to interview Lagasse. The video at the top is the one the foundation produced for Lagasse's honor. (Seriously: Hang on until the last seconds for the "Bam!" from the kids at St. Michael's Special School in New Orleans. Have a tissue ready.)
We only had a few minutes before his cooking demonstration, so we talked briefly on a few points:
Getting the Humanitarian Award: Chefs are constantly asked to donate their time or faces to causes. "For me, it's hard to ask. It's a big ask." So it was gratifying to get the award in an auditorium filled his peers, as a way of reminding them all, this is why they do it. The money his foundation raises provided 400,000 summer meals for kids who don't get breakfast or lunch when they're out of school. "That's why I do it -- I'm trying to make life better."
How cooking in America has changed: "I started 20 years ago with Food Network. I see the evolution that's happened. People are becoming aware. Finally, the light's going on - 'oh, string beans,' 'oh, the farmer's market.' . . . We still got work to do, people like you and me that teach people. God thanks, because we have jobs."
How he and his cooking have changed: "I've gotten older, my diet has changed. I'm eating healthful, eating in combinations, making choices. In the old days, we'd go to six restaurants in a day and then go to three bakeries. Now, we plan for, let's eat light at lunch and go here at dinner."
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Posted by Kathleen Purvis at 9:31 AM