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Emeril in OKC

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Superstar chef Emeril Lagasse dropped by Oklahoma City on Friday to share some recipes, sign some books and spread some holiday cheer. He also spent some time in a couple of local night spots.

Emeril, who once to Food Network what Vito Corleone was to the fictional Five Families,  did cooking demonstration before about 500 fans. He prepared Fried Oysters with Spinach Coulis then Smothered Veal Chops with Tasso Mushroom Gravy.

Emeril fought off a testy microphone to keep the capacity crowd engaged and entertained. He was informative, confident and funny. In describing how to prepare veal, he indicated that if one must have their chops mid-well or well done to “try the fish.”

He followed that with 15 minutes of questions and answers, fielding queries about his favorite foods and the proper olive oil for sauteing.  He noted that extra-virgin olive oil is best for finishing dishes or dressing and regulat olive oil is best for frying. As for the best thing he ever ate, he recalled a simple perfectly cooked potato wrapped in a fresh and equally perfect leaf of spinach he had during travels in his youth in France.

“It was so simple,” he said. “It’s something that’s always stuck with me.”

He listed Paul Bocuse and Prudhomme and Julia Child among his influences. When asked about cooking with Julia, he described his long-standing relationship with the iconic TV chef, which included teaching her to make crawfish.

“We had a little joke between us,” he said. “I always reminded her that I’m the guy who taught her how to pinch tail and suck head.”

Lagasse, who owns a dozen restaurants, spent the remainder of his time signing copies of his latest two cookbooks “20-40-60” and “Farm to Fork.” The lines to meet the superstar, whose career rocketed into the stratosphere when he followed legendary Cajun and Creole master Paul Prudhomme at the iconic New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace, stretched around the upstairs walkways of Dillard’s east and into Penn Square Mall.

After signing books til 8, Lagasse and his entourage made their way to Ludivine for dinner. Chefs Jonathan Stranger and Russ Johnson were as surprised as the guests in the dining room that night, as the reservation wasn’t made under the name Emeril, Lagasse or even BAM!

The chefs and barkeep Kyle Fleischfresser report Lagasse stayed for hours and enjoyed a bounty of food, beverage and spirit. Stranger said Emeril’s party had one of everything on the entire menu – some things twice. 

He said the chanterelle mushrooms on toast and the bison were a huge hit. And based on experience the night before, I can vouch. Stranger said Lagasse told him Ludivine in any city he has ever eaten in and hold its own as an incredible restaurant.

“We’re very grateful to have that kind of feedback from a chef of his stature,” Stranger said.

Jonathan, Russ and Kyle all agreed that Emeril was not only a great guest but a worthy agent of revelry.”

“I could hang out with him,” Stranger said with a wry grin. “He’s a fun dude.”

And hang out they did, word on the street is Lagasse and friends were the last to leave Ludivine before the doors were bolted.

 Considering the subject matter of Lagasse’s new book, Ludivine was an appropriate destination. The visit is not only a feather in Ludivine’s cap, but Ludivine is a feather in the cap of Oklahoma City. Two decades ago, chef Kurt Fleischfresser made farm-to-table his bailiwick. It’s fitting that the restaurant where his son tends bar is helping expand the practice of supporting local farmers and producers and refusing to compromise on the quality of his ingredients.

It’s been a big year for the local restaurant scene. Ludivine has now scored visits from celebrity chefs Rick Bayless and Lagasse, who finished the evening with a nightcap at the Skirvin bar, in the last month. Not bad for a restaurant that’s not even six months old.

While I did get a chance to chat with Emeril for the video above, I missed him by only 24 hours at Ludivine. That’s right, I’d eaten there for the first time the night before. (Yes, I very nearly chose Friday night for dinner.  I’ll have a write up on my experience in the next couple weeks.

Did you make it to Emeril’s appearance? Have you been to Ludivine yet? Let me know what you thought about either.

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