Hollywood Flashback: NBC Tried to Make a Sitcom Star Out of Emeril Lagasse in 2001

Courtesy of Photofest

The network launched a sitcom centered on the behind-the-scenes life at a cooking show starring the celebrity chef, but only 10 episodes of 'Emeril' were made and just seven aired: "He was expected to become an actor overnight, and it just didn't work. You can't script Emeril."

In 2001, NBC launched a sitcom revolving around the behind-the-scenes life at a cooking show starring celebrity chef Emeril John Lagasse, but the comedy soufflé didn't rise.

Then-NBC president Jeff Zucker was a major fan, and the pilot scored high in test screenings, but only 10 episodes of Emeril were made and just seven aired.

"I love Emeril," says creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason. "But he was expected to become an actor overnight, and it just didn't work. You can't script Emeril."

The Hollywood Reporter arrived at pretty much the same conclusion in its review. "When it comes to acting in a sitcom," said THR, "Emeril is a great chef."

To add to the show's difficulties, it premiered two weeks after 9/11.

"This just wasn't the time for light, silly fun," says co-star Lisa Ann Walter. 

Despite its short run, there were pluses to making the series. "You go into a restaurant with Emeril, and the whole staff is lined up; it's like you're with the president," says Bloodworth Thomason. "You almost need to be medevaced out [from eating too much]." 

Walter notes that it was the only show she's ever worked on that had a separate kitchen set up behind the stage. "Everything on the stage smelled glorious," she says. "He would cook for us all day. His banana cream pie was to die for."

And while it might not have been much consolation, Emeril did receive an Emmy nom for art direction.

This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.