My philosophy from day one is that I can sleep better at night if I can improve an individual's knowledge about food and wine, and do it on a daily basis.
You know, in 1975 I couldn't get a job in New York City because I was American. The kitchens were predominantly run by French, Swiss, German, and basically I got laughed at. I had education, I had experience, but got laughed at because I was American.
Home base is the support system where we have a culinary team, my own writers because of the shows and the books and stuff, we have a culinary team of about six people. Marketing, public relations, accounting and all that sort of stuff.
When I first decided to open a restaurant, I was turned down by several banks. It was the late 80's and many restaurants were failing. I refused to give up because I knew I had a good concept.
I've always been known for bold flavors and rustic cooking, but there is another side to me. As you evolve as a cook, you understand life and how serious it is. There comes a point where there's got to be a better balance.
I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. My background was modest, and I worked at a Portuguese bakery in town.
I make some of my best recipes with a simple homemade stock. Keep shrimp shells stored in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you have almost a gallon-bag full, you can make a stock in 30 minutes that you can use in soups and sauces. You can then freeze the stock in ice-cube trays.
My food is Louisiana, New Orleans-based, well-seasoned, rustic. I think it's pretty unique because of my background being influenced by my mom, Portuguese and French Canadian. There's a lot going on there.
Whether it's books or TV, or whatever the case may be, the backbone of what I do is my restaurants.
I have a lot of influences. I'm American-schooled. I'm classically trained. I'm a pretty universal student, if you will. I have a lot of degrees, which really don't pay the rent. I have two doctorate degrees, I have a bachelor's degree, but I'm still a cook.
I think you have to be careful with spices. Kids' palates can be very delicate, and they might not like things overspiced. In my cookbooks for kids, I do a milder version of my signature spice blend, Emeril's Essence, called Baby Bam, which has no cayenne pepper.
My favorite Aspen memory is saving an upside-down cake that had exploded from the high altitude.
I wouldn't ask any of my employees to do anything I wouldn't do. And I work as hard, if not harder than the rest of the staff, to set an example. I also believe in giving my employees a lot of room to be creative and to express themselves.
Many of my staff have been with me for over 20 years. I have a great team, and I make sure they feel respected and appreciated.
I can't tell you enough about cinnamon. Cinnamon is an awesome spice to use and it goes great with something like apples in the morning or in a mixture of fruit or in your oatmeal or even in your cereal.
When I want to kick it up, I like to add hardwood chips or chunks to the grill; it adds bold smoky flavors. The most common woods are hickory and mesquite, but you can find alder, apple, cherry and, my personal favorite, pecan.
I think all kids need snacks. Mine are fruit machines. I give them things like apple slices, berries and melon. Do I let them eat ice cream? Absolutely. But not every day.
Radishes grow just about anywhere. People think, 'Oh it's just a radish.' But radishes are delicious, and people don't think of cooking them.
Cleanliness is very important. If you let kids make a total mess in the kitchen and then leave, you're not really teaching them anything.
I was on the board of Andre Agassi's foundation, and seeing the way it operated blew my mind. In 2002, I told my wife, I want to start a foundation to give back, I want it to be for kids in hard circumstances, and I want it to be culinary-driven, because that's who I am.
We'll be going to the fish market and a farmer's market this afternoon to get what we need to make and eat dinner as a family. I'm trying to expose my kids to going to a farmers market or the fish market and learning what that's all about.
You go to a restaurant in the States and kids have these game boards at the table. You don't see that in Italy or Spain. It's not because they can't afford to buy them, it's because that's not what eating together as a family is about.
We're a new show. We can't afford instant replay.
You can easily put together your own favorite spice blend, whether that's a salt and pepper mixture or you're adding herbs to it or Creole spice. Just watch out for the sodium content. That why I encourage you to make your own.
Scatter soaked hardwood chunks over your coals for a quick and easy way to add a smoky nuance to your grilled foods.