With a spice for life that’s only exceeded by his fiery culinary creations, celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse brings a certain pizzazz to this year’s Rose Parade festivities as the Grand Marshal this annual Pasadena tradition. And since the theme is “Passport to the World’s Celebrations,” the well-traveled Lagasse seems the perfect fit for the job.
“Working in the culinary world I am constantly exposed to people from so
many cultures and places,” says Lagasse. “Learning about their traditions and their local flavors has been one of the best parts of my job. I'm honored to be part of this year's Rose Parade, and paying tribute to the festivities and traditions from around the globe.”
For Lagasse, New Year’s Day is usually spent “gathering with the family, watching the games, enjoying good food and checking out the beautifully-decorated floats [on television].” So to be involved in this capacity is somewhat of a long-standing wish for Lagasse. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Rose Parade. It’s exciting to experience it for the first time and to have the honor to lead the parade as Grand Marshal,” he says.
As the official host of the festivities, Lagasse will also toss the coin before the Rose Parade football game. But the spectacular floats are what draw the world-famous chef to this Pasadena celebration. Much like his own work – taking numerous, individual ingredients and turning them into something fabulous – the hundreds of float volunteers craft something truly amazing out of single flowers, seeds and leaves.
“To take fresh roses, flowers and ingredients from nature and turn it into a moving work of art – at the last minute - is unbelievable,” says Lagasse. “The float builders are all so talented; I've got a lot of respect for the amount of time and energy that the designers and volunteers put in.”
Coming from Lagasse, possibly the hardest working man in the culinary universe, this is quite a compliment. On top of his duties as the host of his own, wildly-popular Food Network programs, Lagasse is the chef-proprietor of 10 restaurants including ones in Las Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, and in his beloved hometown of New Orleans. He’s also a best-selling author, husband, father and a philanthropist. In 2002, Lagasse established the Emeril Lagasse Foundation to support and encourage programs that create developmental and educational opportunities for children.
He was also heavily involved in bringing tourism back to New Orleans after the city was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane damaged his three New Orleans restaurants, Lagasse established a fund to help assist his out-of-work employees. More importantly, he immediately went back into the kitchen to bring the joy of food back to the tattered community.
“There's a bond that's shared when people get together, cook and share a meal. Spending time together in the kitchen and at the dinner table is what ties us all together,” he says.
It’s a wonder that Lagasse has time to play such a major role in this year’s Rose Parade, but for the busy chef, it’s a welcome respite from his hectic schedule. Though he has visited the area before, he’s never had enough time to eat at any of Pasadena’s numerous restaurants, and that is something to look forward to.
“You can be sure that I’m going to sample some of the great cuisine [in Pasadena] this time around!” says Lagasse.
Note to Pasadena chefs: Get ready to kick it up a notch.