'Emeril Green' Comes Out of the Oven

A few months ago in this space, we told you about a casting call for Emeril Green, celeb chef Emeril Lagasse's new show on Planet Green, the 24/7 eco-channel at Discovery.

Now the show is ready for prime time, and it's coming out of the oven Monday, July 14, at 8 p.m. Emeril has cooked up a batch of 80 shows, each of which profiles a "cooking-challenged" home cook from the Washington area, including a handful of Mighty Appetite blog readers. Deepening the Washington connection is the Whole Foods in Fair Lakes, Va., where the entire first season has been taped, according to producer Marie Ostrosky.

Typically, the show will air Monday through Friday at 8 p.m., but the debut will be a "mini-marathon running six shows back-to-back, " says Ostrosky. "Then it's two shows a night for the first two weeks."

Two MA readers are part of Monday's lineup, including 39-year-old Laura MacLean of Capitol Hill and 29-year-old Bren Herrera, who divides her time between Falls Church, Va., and Atlanta, Ga. The following week, 29-year-old Samantha Cummings, of Arlington, Va., is the star of the July 23 show.

I asked this trio a handful of questions about their on-air experiences working with Lagasse. MacLean and Cummings responded via e-mail; Herrera spoke with me by phone from St. Maarten earlier this week.

What was your dilemma?

Laura MacLean: I am so busy with work (I have a full-time job, I teach spin classes at the Marine Barracks and I write a blog for Trek Bicycles) AND I train for different athletic events/races at night that by the time I get home around 9:30 pm, I'm ready to eat the paint off the walls.

I also lost over 100 lbs (you'll see me holding up my big pants on the show no doubt) so it's important for me to eat healthy and fresh food that's low fat and high fiber (and fast to cook). I asked Emeril to help me liven up my menu choices with some new ideas.

Bren Herrera: Pork. Anything and everything pork. I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, and we didn't eat it, we didn't cook it, even though I'm Cuban, and our cuisine is nothing but pork. Now I've got a catering company and I'm a personal chef, and I've got clients who want pork and I didn't have the first idea about working with it.

Samantha Cummings: My pizza was never pizza parlor quality pizza. It was mediocre "homemade pizza" that was a bit floppy, the center never cooked well, etc.

Did you learn what you wanted to learn? Did you learn something you wouldn't have expected?

LM: It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to learn from Emeril and cook with him. I'm probably going to sound like a broken record on the show -- 'I've never tried that before" -- because he introduced me to some new veggies and legumes. At the end of the day, the best part is that I had FUN.

My dish was layered with sauteed Swiss chard on the bottom (a new veggie for me); then topped with French green lentils (I love lentils but hadn't tried this kind) that we cooked in broth with sauteed carrots/onions/celery; added some roasted corn; all that topped with an egg Emeril fried in olive oil. There may have been a little Parmigiano shaved on top, I can't remember. I'm not a big egg fan, but the dish felt like it was something I'd get in a French bistro.

BH: I learned much more than what I wanted to learn. We went to the butcher, who described every cut of the pig. I learned how to use pork as a flavoring rather than using it as a centerpiece. I must admit, I really did enjoy the ham hock in the beans he made, and I learned how long pork barbecue takes.

SC: I just wanted to learn how to make good pizzeria-style pizza. I think my biggest revelation were the toppings. I was usually pretty traditional sticking with cheese pizza (or maybe olives and capers), but the variety of cheeses and toppings we used wowed me. Having to heat a stone for about an hour also was revealing

How did Emeril incorporate "green" in helping you with your dilemma?

LM: The "green" of my show is the health aspect of the food. There's also the component of food as fuel for my active life -- how will what I'm eating keep me going. We also made "energy bars" that he named NOLA Bars I can take with me when I do long bicycle rides instead of buying packaged/processed ones.

BH: We talked about the benefits of free-range pork (versus conventional) and the differences in the way pigs are fed.

SC: Not a whole lot of "green" in my episode.

Overall, was it a worthwhile experience? And have you made your dish since the taping?

LM: I have made my dish several times since the taping, modified slightly, without the egg. The dish doesn't suffer without it.

BH: I'd do it 10 times over. I got to teach him a little about Latin cooking as well, which he seemed open to. I've cooked pork loins, I've done the pork chop marinated in citrus and bay leaf. Now cooking pork won't be a problem.

[As for eating pork, Bren says she's curious, but is still practicing her religion and staying clear of the stuff.]

SC: Yes, it was. I make pizza all the time now. My husband thinks it is the best thing I make and requests it probably a couple times a week now. I definitely try to incorporate a few different types of cheeses into my pizza now.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 11, 2008; 8:55 AM ET Eco-Bites , Food Media
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Posted by: Emeril Fan | July 11, 2008 9:37 AM

Two updates: Just heard from Discovery publicity that the show will air Monday through Friday, not Monday through Thursday, as originally stated. I'll be making changes to text right now.

Also: We got our hands on a video teaser to the show that we hope to upload by this afternoon. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 11, 2008 9:51 AM

Any chance we could get the recipe for the NOLA bars? I've been desperate to find a recipe that works for my busy schedule as well and am getting sick (literally) of the Luna bars and other processed bars on the market. Not to mention they are also getting to be too expensive! Thanks for the update and insight on the show.

Posted by: Curious | July 11, 2008 10:27 AM

It would be more interesting to me if the shows were taped at Safeway, Giant, Food Lion, etc. But I guess people in the Gourmet industry need to scratch each other's back to perpetuate the myth that everything you buy at places like Whole Foods is better quality or more "eco-concious" and justifies the price. I mean after all, Emeril cooks there...

Don't get me wrong, some stuff most definitely is better quality, but after going back to Safeway a few times recently after going almost exclusively Whole Foods for awhile, I'm starting to question how much of that is illusion. Can you really tell the difference between the romaine at Whole Foods and the regular or organic variety at your ordinary grocery store? Sure, the seafood can be superior, but $20/lb for salmon superior? C'mon... If you want Whole Foods quality at closer to Safeway prices then go to a farmers market or your local fish monger and buy whatever regional delicacies are coming in fresh.

Posted by: Luddite | July 11, 2008 10:42 AM

Curious: Request has been made for recipe. I'll keep you posted.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 11, 2008 10:42 AM

Thoughts: I like Emeril. Whole Foods is superior to the other grocers for this type of thing because they're set up with a demonstration kitchen. I would be interested in a blind taste test pitting the $20 Whole Foods salmon against the beautiful-looking $3.99/lb salmon available at my local grocery. I know, it's Chilean, probably some of their kin are diseased, but what do you think you're getting in a restaurant? Bam!

Posted by: Dave | July 11, 2008 12:16 PM

Emeril is OVEREXPOSED. Same thing happened to the Bee Gees remember them? Sorry I used to love to watch him but I'm real burned out on him at this point. If I was over at Food Network I'd be real careful with Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay. All are in the "burn out zone" from overexposure.

Posted by: Pat | July 11, 2008 12:44 PM

I tried out for the show and didn't make it. I'm still sad, sniff sniff. My dilemma was the same as my blog: cooking healthy as a single person.
Oh well, maybe next season!

See what's cooking on my blog

Posted by: Julia | July 11, 2008 2:50 PM

Emeril isn't happy until his audience applaudes his corny antics. I'll settle for a ham and mashed potatoe sandwich any day. Bam that!

Posted by: No Essence | July 11, 2008 7:49 PM

I agree that the Food Network has become a trivialized confection that's difficult to stomach. There's a real hunger for chefs like Jacques Pepin and Julia Child. Someone should start a Real-Food Network, or a Chef's Network, or a Basics-of-Cooking Network.

Posted by: Dave | July 12, 2008 7:46 AM

I don't understand what makes this show "Green." Just because it's at Whole Foods? They had an opportunity to focus on using local, in-season ingredients and discuss the environmental impact of the typical American diet...but it looks like they've probably failed. Instead, they are clearly ripping off the TLC show "Take Home Chef."

Posted by: Sylvania | July 13, 2008 8:47 AM

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