Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
NEW YORK (AP) — Caution: Eat before you watch "Eat the World." Do not come to this new Emeril Lagasse-hosted docuseries hungry for anything other than new insights about food, travel and culture.
And if you must snack while viewing any of these six half-hours (all available for streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday), be careful what you choose. Reheating a slice from your pizzeria may plunge you into comparative despair as you behold Lagasse's odyssey to Italy, where he savors what reputedly is the best pizza in the world, lovingly prepared with dough, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella and anchovies all collected just a few miles from the village where this tiny restaurant draws patrons by the hundreds. For him, it's ecstasy with every bite, and you, in your deprivation, will understand all too painfully why.
For this and each "Eat the World" expedition, Lagasse travels with a fellow superstar chef who serves as his liaison to locales, cooking techniques and flavors with which he may be no more conversant than the viewer.
"Maybe this experience, maybe this place isn't familiar to me," says Lagasse, "but always there's a story and there's pieces of knowledge, and that's what I'm trying to deliver for the folks at home, along with an adventure."
The adventure shared with Mario Batali takes them to China.
"We started in New York with ravioli, and we ended up in Shanghai," he reports. "People might scratch their heads at home and wonder, 'Why not Italy?' It's because we were looking for the beginning of the noodle!"
Other countries that Lagasse and a fellow culinarian will sample include Cuba, Spain, Korea and Sweden, where he joins Marcus Samuelsson at a restaurant whose Michelin-star chef thrills diners from a kitchen that has no electricity — "everything he does is by wood, fire and smoke!"
At 56, Lagasse has enjoyed decades of fame as a restaurateur and celebrity chef who first earned renown in New Orleans by blazing a new style of Creole cuisine. He has authored many cookbooks and hosted numerous TV series going back to the launch of the Food Network a quarter-century ago. He even starred as a sitcom version of himself in NBC's short-lived "Emeril."
Along the way, he developed an image as a personality as zesty as his food, complete with his signature eruptions of "Kick it up a notch" and "Bam!"
Not here. No "bams."
"I think viewers will be very surprised to see another side of Emeril Lagasse," he notes. "For 30 years I've been saying if you can understand the culture and the people, then you can understand the food. And that's certainly the mission that I'm on for this show — to bring that home for every viewer.
"If you're not learning something every day, then you're really cheating yourself. And I approach the show that way. Every day, something touched me, whether it was an ingredient or a technique or a place or a face, and I know that's gonna come across on the screen.
"I don't usually watch myself on television," he confides with a mischievous grin. "But I can't wait to watch this show. It's really special."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at email@example.com and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore