Two years ago I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with Emeril Lagasse at his restaurant in Atlanta. My newscaster friend interviewed him earlier in the day and was invited back for dinner. She knew I had lived in New Orleans and would really appreciate the opportunity to meet Emeril so I was lucky enough to be her date!
We spent the first part of the evening casually chatting with Emeril over appetizers and wine. WOW – six of us sitting around a table having a casual conversation with Emeril and I was sitting next to him!
We were having a great conversation. He told us stories about his recipes, restaurants, his son, and TV show. Then, he told “THE” story. The story that would stick with me and be retold a thousand times. The story that would end up changing my life.
He told us that after Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans was forced to cancel all summer school programs. Without these programs, kids of all ages would spend the summer on the streets. Knowing how dangerous this was, Emeril decided to do something about it. He created his own summer program for kids.
The product of his creation is something that is near and dear to my heart – hot sauce! Instead of running the streets, the kids in Emeril’s program created and sold hot sauce. They participated in every step of the process: they grew and harvested the peppers, made and bottled the sauce, designed the label, and sold it in local markets. They learned valuable business skills and walked away with a life-long mentor.
This story captivated me. Emeril showed how much he cares about the community and those who are less fortunate. He could have just written a big check and gone back to his busy schedule. Instead, he came up with a creative way to really help these kids. To give them a Second Chance.
A theme in this project is Second Chances. The Southerners got a Second Chance after the Civil War, Emeril gave the kids in New Orleans a Second Chance after Katrina, and I am now getting my own Second Chance at life. Through this project, I hope to follow in Emeril’s footsteps and help others who need a Second Chance.