Chef Emeril Lagasse shot to fame as the host of a popular Food Network show that encouraged amateur chefs to try their own hands in the kitchen. But despite being one of the most recognizable celebrity chefs in the country, Lagasse’s outlook on his future as a restaurateur — and the restaurant industry in general — is fairly grim. “I have nowhere to go, really — other than broke,” said Lagasse at a recent event promoting his upcoming TNT reality series On the Menu.
“It’s becoming a very challenging industry to become a very successful average restaurateur,” continued Lagasse. “I can’t charge $300 a person in my restaurant or I would not be in business. Am I using any different ingredients? Not really. Am I using any caliber of service staff? I don’t think so. I think our service is as good or better than most places.”
“And then you add all the Obama nonsense to what it’s become in the last several years. I don’t have anything against Mr. Obama. I’m just saying the way that, you know… the government should stay out of things. […] Pretty soon, they’re going to wipe a lot of the middle restaurateurs and restaurant cooks. […] If it continues, then watch: you’re going to have high-end, and you’re going to have fast food, and you’re going to have chain restaurants.”
Lagasse went on to lament that the areas in which he operates restaurants — including New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — have been hit particularly hard by the problems in the economy. “Somebody having a $12.99 meatball and pasta dish at my restaurant means a lot to them,” he said. “That’s like a special occasion.”
“The one thing that I can say is that I’m pretty connected to America — because I’m a good listener, and I think that’s what makes a great restaurateur, is that you’re a good listener,” he said. “I don’t have the solution. If I did, I could run for president. But I don’t have the solution. All I can tell you is that the balance of the economic cycle is out of whack.”