Say you were having an intimate dinner party. And say Emeril Lagasse happened to be the chef.
That's the feel the cooking superstar wants with "Emeril's Table," his weekday Hallmark Channel series that premieres Monday, Sept. 26. In each episode, Lagasse gathers, educates and feeds five people with some connection to one another, whether they're relatives or peers in nursing or firefighting.
"I haven't really been anchored for a couple of years," Lagasse says of the television work that formerly made him one of Food Network's most familiar faces. "I came back and worked on Planet Green, which was something I wanted to do, and I really enjoyed the second year because I was allowed to go out in the field more. Going to farms and dairies was really intriguing to me."
Conversely, "Emeril's Table" keeps Lagasse very much rooted to the title setting, but he doesn't mind: "I was like, 'Wow. It's going to be fun to get back in the kitchen and just cook and do what I love to do.' It's almost like being in my restaurant (in New Orleans) because at the end of the show, it's like, 'Well, how was (the meal), guys?' "
Also a judge on Bravo's upcoming "Top Chef: Texas," Lagasse is enjoying the relatively leisurely "Emeril's Table" production pace. "There's no big rush as far as, 'Hurry up. You've got to be done in 40 minutes.' If the show takes an hour to do because we're roasting a roast, that's what it is."
Which isn't to say plenty of advance preparation doesn't go into each episode. "We obviously brainstormed about topics," Lagasse confirms, "then I wrote the outlines with my culinary team, and they went into a test kitchen and tested and retested. A day or two in advance, I rewrite the show. Then I meet with the kitchen staff, and we do the buying list. And it's worked out great."
What are you reading?
"I've been working so much, I haven't really read anything consistently. I read a lot of magazines and newspapers, but I'm not really into a book at this point."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"I had some delicious roast chicken, lots of roasted vegetables and a spinach salad with my family. It was really yummy. I didn't have a lot of time, but we had a lot of love in it."
What is your next project?
"I'm launching not only the show, but 'Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders,' a new book of mine. And I'm going to France to work on some new electric products with my partner there."
What was your last trip (when and why)?
"My family and I went to Spain, rented a house for a couple of weeks and visited some friends there. We spent a little bit of time in Ibiza eating lots of good seafood and a little bit of time in Madrid. It's a wonderful place."
Tasty TV: 'Emeril's Table'