Wednesday, November 17, 1999

Chef Emeril really is live, at bookstore in Norwood

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The author jamming bookstore aisles in Ohio and Indiana this week doesn't write about Washington sleaze, romance or self-motivation. Superstar chef Emeril Lagasse writes about cooking Cajun-Creole food, and — to borrow a line from his hit Food Network show — he is kicking it up a notch.

        On a national tour promoting his latest cookbook, Everyday's a Party (Morrow; $26), Mr. Lagasse drew more than 2,500 fans at a Barnes and Noble in Indianapolis Monday and nearly 3,000 showed up early Tuesday for a signing at Books & Co. in Kettering, Ohio.

        Tuesday night,. more than 2,000 people flocked to Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Norwood, making it the largest book-signing in the store's six-year history.

        “He's just Emeril; that's why I'm here,” said Scott Conger, who drove from Louisville to be the first in line at Joseph-Beth.

        Short and stocky with wavy black hair and bushy eyebrows, Mr. La gasse signed an estimated 500 books per hour, but he made a point of trying to talk to every fan.

        “I love people,” Mr. Lagasse said. “That's one of the reasons I cook.”

        In the food world, no one is bigger. An award-winning chef, Mr. Lagasse owns six restaurants in New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; and Las Vegas. But most know him from television. Mr. Lagasse appears in weekly segments on ABC's Good Morning America, and he hosts Emeril Live — the top-rated show on the Food Network. It's the pro gram that has made the chef's “kick it up a notch” and “bam” familiar phrases. His laid-back style and blue-collar personality attract fans of all ages and backgrounds. “On his show, there's almost something that has the spirit and energy of an evangelical tent show,” said Geoff Drummond, who produces the popular PBS series, Cooking at Home with Julia (Child) and Jacques (Pepin).

        “I'm a big fan, but my daughter (in Michigan) is even bigger,” said Alice Jones of Mount Auburn. “She calls me on weekends to tell me what he's cooking on the shows.”

        Thom Ringle of Amelia brought his 2-year-old son, Austin, to the book-signing, along with a ham to give to the celebrity chef as a gift.

        “We watch just about every night,” Mr. Ringle said. “I like the fact that he takes his cooking down so that everyone can do it.”

        “I try not to be intimidating,” said Mr. Lagasse, who wraps up his Midwestern tour in Cleveland today. “If one person walks away knowing something different, that makes me happy.”


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