Sunday, May 17, 2009

Will Emeril really be worth the detour?

The Sunday restaurant column in the local daily paper today brought the breathless news that Emeril Lagasse, the so-called celebrity chef, will be opening his first Northeast restaurant on Friday, LESS THAN TWO HOURS by car from North Jersey.

Did I run out to the garage to check my hybrid's gas gauge and tires? The column said Emeril's Chop House (I guess it's a steakhouse) in a new Bethlehem, Pa., casino will have a menu of local mushrooms and other farm produce, but is silent on the quality of the meat that will be served. 

Every time I read about a celebrity chef such as Emeril, I'm reminded of what one of them said: "People pay us to buy food and cook it for them." That puts it into perspective. I'm more interested in whether a restaurant serves wild fish and chicken that is drug-free and fed a vegetarian diet than I am in whose name is on it.

I did have a great seafood meal once at Nola, one of Lagasse's restaurants in New Orleans, when I was visiting the city for a music festival a couple of years ago. And in the early 1970s, in Europe to see a Formula One race, me and two friends drove from Paris to Monte Carlo, but took a few hours out to stop for a memorable lunch at Troigros, a restaurant in Roanne, France, with three Michelin stars, the top rating.

Thanks, but no thanks. Don't bust my chops. I won't be driving to Pennsylvania to eat in a celebrity chef's chophouse.  (This post was revised.)

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