NEW ORLEANS — Emeril Lagasse has a new cookbook and new season of TV's "Top Chef" premiering in a week, but what really got the chef talking was boudin and beer.
Lagasse says more than a dozen chefs from across the country are heading to New Orleans this week to serve up some of their favorite dishes using or inspired by boudin, a pork and rice sausage commonly used in Louisiana cuisine.
"It's a staple in what we do in Louisiana, but lots of cultures have their own versions of boudin," Lagasse told The Associated Press. "Italians make it one way, the French make it another. In other parts of the South they have different ways of making it."
Chefs from San Francisco and elsewhere are expected to join two dozen from New Orleans for Lagasse's "Boudin and Beer" street party at The Foundry, where on Friday they'll dish out their fare among live music and Louisiana-brewed Abita beer.
The Foundry is the site of a former brewery dating back to the 1850s.
Chefs Mario Batali and Donald Link are co-hosting the event with Lagasse. It kicks off a two-day celebration of Louisiana food and culture to benefit the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, a charity established in 2002 to support children's education programs in culinary arts and nutrition.
To date, the foundation has granted more than $5 million to programs in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. Recipients include the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Cafe Reconcile, a nonprofit eatery where New Orleans youth are trained to work in the food and hospitality industry.
The fundraiser continues Saturday with Carnivale du Vin, a gala and wine auction that will include wine paired with a five-course dinner prepared by chefs Mario Batali, Marc Forgione, Tyler Florence and others.
Lagasse said it wasn't hard to lure the award-winning chefs to New Orleans.
"New Orleans is one of the greatest food cities in the country, if not the world," he said.
Lagasse has lived in New Orleans for 30 years. In the early 1980s, he served as executive chef at Commander's Palace before opening his own restaurants.
"I fell in love with the city, the food, the culture. It's why I'm still here," he said.
Lagasse has three restaurants in New Orleans and nine others across the U.S.
He launched his TV career on the Food Network in the mid-1990s, popularizing his catchphrase "Bam!" He also made it to the big screen, lending his voice to the character of Marlon the Gator in the New Orleans-set 2009 Disney film, "The Princess and the Frog."
Lagasse is returning as a celebrity judge on the 10th season of Bravo's "Top Chef," which premieres on Nov. 7. He's also hosting a Cooking Network show airing in January called "Emeril's Florida," which he says will resemble a travel show of interesting people and places along the state's Panhandle and down to the Florida Keys.
Lagasse just released a new cookbook, "Emeril's Kicked-Up Sandwiches," which includes more than 100 sandwich recipes, including a fried soft-shell crab po-boy with lemon caper spread and a classic roast beef with French onion dip.