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My experience as an Emeril Live audience member...

Ok, this actually happened a couple of months ago, but since I only recently started posting on Chowhound, I figured someone here might find this interesting. Hopefully it will give those interested a glimpse inside the running of the show. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not really an Emeril fan and I've seen his show only once or twice on TV, but really, I can't pass up a chance to go inside FoodTV headquaarters. Maybe I could find an executive and implore him to stop it with the Rachael Ray onslaught.

Anyway, so I'm at work in Manhattan one fine spring day when my friend rings me up and asks if I'd like to go to an Emeril taping that afternoon - a friend of a friend can't make it so they passed 2 tix onto her. It was a slow work day and I had the opportunity to hop out so why not. We meet up a few hours before taping begins, but they already had set up the line ropes for the lines that would eventually form. We didn't even have our tickets yet, only instructions to meet a mysterious "Martha from the food network." After poking our noses around inside the place for a few minutes we were able to track down Marth and get our tickets. We're "VIPs"! Apparently the person who couldn't make it is some big shot at the NYPD - score!

Since we had some time to kill prior to entry, we had lunch at the Lobster Shack inside Chelsea Market (sub par corn chowder, but very nice sashimi). For those that don't know, FoodTV HQ is inside a large market type place in NYC, and it's where they film a lot of the grocery shopping expeditions for the chefs and you would've seen it a lot if you watched Food Network Star. Going back to the FoodTV portion of Chelsea Market, we started to notice the huge line that hard formed during our lunch and began to worry that we would have to wait in it, but fortunately we noticed a separate VIP line and was able to get in early. I always feel guilty whenever stuff like that happens to me and I see the faces of the people on the "normal" line, but damn if I'm not going to take advantage of it.

After entry we get scanned by security and escorted up a rear elevator by a food network employee. We notice that the non-VIPs are lead to an area with tvs showing old episodes of emeril live. Our waiting room also has tvs showing old emeril shows but is stocked with drinks, snacks, etc. We ask if we can wander around the halls a little and the handlers say that it's fine as long as you don't wander too much. I was able to snap a pic of the food network kitchens on my crappy phone camera http://tinyurl.com/rhxr6 . Excitement builds!

Soon, more people start filing into the room. Ultimately, I would estimate that around 25 people were in the room and we can hear the taping of another episode behind two large doors. We're alerted that they film pretty much an entire seasons worth of shows in the span of several weeks, shooting about 2-3 shows in one day back to back. We line up according to our numbers (which you're given depending on how early you arrive) and soon we're led into the studio. First thing you notice is how cold it is. I'm generally a very warm person even in places with AC, but this was refrigerator cold. We queue up in front of the "hostess" who then directs you to your table. The best seats are the tables up front and all of those taken by the VIPs. I get a seat at the frontmost table, all the way to the right. Basically right next to the band. But these aren't the BEST seats which are those directly attached to Emeril's cooking station. If you're dressed nicely or are photogenic, you'll probably be considered for one of those spots. There's no rhyme or reason to it other than that - it was like being singled out by a club bouncer. Or you can exude crazy amounts of enthusiasm and they'll place you in one of those seats as well because they'll know you'll make crazy faces and ooh ahh at everything Emeril does. We notice that the couple next to us was actually "bumped" up to a prime seat after talking with the hostess. Not sure what transpired between them, but it was probably an easy decision for the hostess as his date was tall, thin, young, pretty and quite made up.

The show is ready to begin. But not before some warmup comedy by a food network staffer to fluff us up. It was funny enough, but I'm sure she does the same routine for all the tapings. We're then instructed to act crazy and loud and "if you're think you're being too loud, don't worry, you're not. get wild!" Taping begins and the show starts out with a canned intro of Emeril at the butcher shop downstairs. He's buying meat and it's going to be a Meat Market themed episode. Once that ends, Emeril comes out and the place goes wild. People are on their feet clapping and yelling with some pumping fists in the air as well. And then the show pretty much progresses as what you would normally see on tv. Although I assure you the experience of people screaming whenever the word "garlic" is mentioned is much, much more surreal when it's actually happening all around you.

Prior to the show starting, they apologized to the audience that unfortunately that "not everyone will get food." They really should have said that "no one will get food other than the people up front." Fine by me, except that phrasing it like that to start with implies to the audience that maybe....20%-30% of the audience will get a taste of something when it's really about 2%. They also say that if you get food, please share. However they pretty much make that impossible as they don't distribute forks, knives, spoons other than to the people directly eating. I'm no germaphobe and will gladly trade bites and dishes with dining companions, but sharing the same utensils and plates as 10 other total strangers skeeved me out a bit.

He was first making a braised short rib dish. I have to admit it smelled great. During the commercial break, a swarm of people descened upon the cooking station and made the swapouts and placed new ingredients on the counter. Emeril receded to the background to talk to his producer I think. Someone came around and offered certain tables, seemingly randomly?, glasses of wine. Skipping couples who were looking at him with pleading eyes for a drink, he would tap certain people on the shoulder and ask if they wanted anything.

Throughout the course of the show, Emeril was doing all his classic Emerilisms and the audience was eating it up. I can't recall his other dishes, but I think one was a skirt steak and soon the entire place smelled great. But then the show came to an end, and the cameras turned off. Emeril stuck around to give a speech about his terrific crew and the team that puts the show together, and then soon we were ushered out. And then that was that!

So all in all, a fun experience, but not "all that." Emeril seemed personable enough and I supposed it's a testament to his on camera work that what you see is what you get. Hope you had fun reading this. Wow I wrote for much longer than I wanted to.

(Edited to fix my picture URL :-))

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  1. Hey, thanks for posting the"inside scoop". I really like knowing the difference between what you see on camera and reality. I am not a huge Emeril fan and I am sure that many shows are run in this manner, but it makes me a little sad for the true fans who go and end up disappointed and disillusioned. I know, it must be my Midwestern naiviety showing through.

    1. Good posting, I think you lay it out like it really is, sounds just like any other TV show taping, whether FoodTV or a sitcom. It's all show BUSINESS.

      1. I went to a taping of an Oprah show and it was a huge disappointment> First she was taping 3 shows that day so we spent several hours waiting while show #1 was being taped. We were not offered any water or snacks even though it was now past 1pm (we were told to come at 10 am) and there were few places to sit. The show turned out to be one that was highlights and follow ups of previous Oprah shows so Oprah was on stage to comment about each of the clips but she never spoke to the audience or even acted like we were there. I think the thing that surprised me the most were the body guards posted around the stage! They were just like Secret Service with their dark glasses and ear pieces!

        1 Reply
        1. re: LikestoEatout

          It sounds like Emeril is more genuinely audience friendly than Oprah. I was at a taping of an Oprah show years ago (I'm not a big fan- I hardly knew who she was at the time, this was before she was quite so famous) and I was struck by the fact that she was "off" (ignoring the audience, etc.) as soon as the cameras were off, and that everything was very scripted. Emeril sounds better, more genuine. (Years after I was at the taping, I was called for jury duty and was questioned as a potential juror for the case where Oprah sued her photographer. I thought it was highly ironic that I was disqualified from the jury for being the only person who had attended a taping, when I was probably the least fan-like of the people in the room.) But it is disappointing about the lack of food for the audience at the Emeril show!

        2. I don't watch these FoodTV shows, but very interesting to know that they use Chelsea Market, since I shopped there regularly for several years.

          1. Thanks for sharing your Emeril experience in an informative and "telling it like it was manner". I've got to say your take on the audience's exuberance ("I assure you the experience of people screaming whenever the word "garlic" is mentioned is much, much more surreal when it's actually happening all around you.") was hilarious :) I would have all to do not to stand up and yell at everbody: COME ON!!!!! Get a grip!!!! This isn't Church!!!! It's just freakin' GARLIC!!! :) Thanks again for a nice post.

            1. Great post, facsfoo... I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and you made me feel like I was there.

              1. Wow, great post!!! Thanks for sharing your story with us!!!

                1. You know, I have to say, that I've gotten tired of Emeril. He cooks some of the most unhealthy dishes available to mankind, and he has a very difficult time with the pronunciation of dishes and their respective ingredients. And the mobster-like attitude, please. It's my show, I'll do as I please...etc. Just stop it already and cook something you're familiar with.

                  I don't think he'll be on the FOOD Network for a whole lot longer. I think people have had enough of his ridiculous 'bamming'.

                  Yet, there's no shortage of people to fill the seats to his tapings. If they only knew that he doesn't have a genuine interest in anyone sitting in those seats, they might reconsider going.

                  1. Reading this experience and observation was just as painful than watching the show.

                    1. Thanks for your wonderfully detailed post. I've always wondered what it would be like to be in the audience. Sorry to hear that most people don't get to taste the food (I was afraid of that).

                      1. That's pretty cool....I've always wondered what going to a taping would be like....however...that being said...I would be really pissed not getting any food...in fact...that would drive me insane...smelling all of those wonderful smells and not getting a chance to sample...booohooo.

                        1. Very interesting, thanks for posting ! I remember some years ago on an episode of a PBS cooking series hosted by Julia Child, she featured a young, very nervous Emeril Lagasse - seemed like that was his first national exposure. He's certainly come a long way.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mikester

                            If you catch the right episodes of Molto Mario, you will see a young Rocco DiSpirito, who seems clueless about Italian cooking.

                          2. So, how many times did he go BAM!


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: TexasToast

                              Once or twice I believe. Maybe only once. Not a very BAM-centric episode probably.

                            2. Just a question ....How long is the wait time to get in???? If it was a beautiful spring/summer day I wouldn't care.
                              Is it worth the 4 hour drive from Boston for the experience????
                              I do NOT like the cold and can't be exposed due to health issues for long periods of time.
                              I have a 1pm taping time.
                              I wish I worked in Manhattan!!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Grill Goddess

                                I would say it's worth it if you're a big fan of emeril. I don't know if the line will stretch outside, but if you get there reasonably early, I don't think you'll have to worry about waiting out in the cold. If you can take him or leave him, it's not worth a drive from Boston.
                                If you can stretch it out into a weekend away of fun in NYC, then go for it.

                                I can't believe someone resurrected this thread :-).

                              2. Fun read. Last year our son filled out a form thru the Food Network website and we rec'd three tickets to see an Emeril taping. We were in the "normal line" and our experience pretty much mirrors your own. Chelsea Market was a minor highlight, mostly because we were starving by the time we left the studio but hated paying $$$ for muffins. However, this particular taping was on cheese and the recipes are still keepers.

                                I've attended other NYC tapings (Danza, The View, even Millionaire) and Emeril's show was far more enjoyable. At Millionaire all we did was clap very loud for two hours and hoped a stage hand would throw us one of six avail t-shirts (sic).

                                  1. This is basically the same experience I had when he came to TO.
                                    Except that I wasn't a VIP and I did get an ice cream at commercial break.

                                    My wife almost pissed that she didn't get to try any food.


                                    1. Fun posting! I have an almost visceral dislike of Emeril and cannot abide his show.
                                      My husband and I went to two Jacques Torres tapings at the French Culinary Inst. a few years ago. We extended the food fun of the day by having a wonderful dinner at the restaurant there, L'ecole (sp?). Jacques was extremely personable and we were treated much better than your description. He took questions and answered them fully and without the "attitude" that Emeril displays. I seem to remember that cute kids and other random audience members got tastes of food.

                                      1. Great post-thanks for sharing. Even though I'm not that big of a fan, I still think it would be pretty neat to experience the live show just once.

                                        1. Thanks for the information. I was right outside those studios this past fall.

                                          I have to say I'm a huge Emeril fan and watch his show often. Not religiously just whenever it's on. Love the fact his food ISN'T healthy unlike so many of the bland shows on food tv! And, it's actually edible!

                                          1. Not that I'd want to and I don't like shaking hands particularly either but do they announce
                                            ahead of time not to try to kiss or hug him? I notice he's sort of distant as he runs through
                                            the audience. Nice post, thanks for taking the time! Definitely if anyone goes it would be best to have VIP tickets like you and even one step further to be in the very front to get food. I remember old Wolfgang Puck shows and it looked like everyone got food which seems right since you've got to sit there in the freezing cold smelling hot food!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: manomin

                                              Thanks for posting your experience, I too was wondering what it would be like to go to his show and would love to, just once. Sounds pretty rushed and impersonal. I guess it would get that way with so many tapings during the day, I can't imagine being "on" like that all day, must be draining for them. Thanks for sharing!

                                            2. Just wanted to add my experience about attending an Emeril taping. I was given a ticket by one of my friends who works in the industry - it turned out to be a VIP ticket also. And luckily enough, I was chosen as one of the guests to sit at the counter by Emeril to taste all the food. The taping was a while ago, so I don't remember the specifics of all the items he prepared. I do remember that it was a dessert episode and I wasn't too impressed with what I ate. One dessert had custard involved, but they must have stuck it in the freezer because it was half-frozen.

                                              One thing that was funny was that we were asked to not eat our food until we were on camera - they didn't want to waste you taking bites with no one to record it. And they encouraged us to make yummy sounds. I chitchatted a bit with the guy sitting next to me during breaks, and he told me that he had met Emeril a few years ago and had gotten tickets through mutual friends, although he wasn't sure if Emeril remembered him because he had met him just once. I thought it was nice that Emeril came over during one of the breaks to ask him how he was doing and if he needed anything - he obviously remembered him.

                                              The episode had winners of some Cooking with Kids contest, so there were quite a few children in the audience. During one of the breaks, he called all the kids over to the freezer where they each got to pick an ice cream.

                                              All in all, Emeril seemed like a nice guy - just a bit shy/reserved. As for being able to have a q&a, they're shooting multiple shows on a tight schedule, which doesn't allow for much time for that element.

                                              I'm not much of an Emeril fan so I found the taping interesting, but nothing beyond that. And as someone asked - no, they don't ask you not to hug and kiss Emeril when he runs through.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: sko111777

                                                The beginning of Emeril's show when he runs through the audience and they all hug and scream and carry on around him reminds me of an old Dick Van Dyke episode where Alan Brady is taping his program in the Petrie's household and all their friends and neighbors come by to be part of the audience. Mel Cooley tries to tell everyone to not react when Alan shows up, so everyone all but ignores him when he comes into the room -- except for one touchy-feely blonde who is all over him. He tells the group to "Love me! Love me! Love me! How come she's the only one here who knows how to love me!" So of course, the next time he enters the room a la Emeril, with everyone hugging and kissing and clapping for him. I can't help but think "Love me! Love me! Love me!" every time I watch Emeril.

                                                1. re: bards4

                                                  Thanks for the laugh, bards, you are spot on here! Now if only we can get Emeril to trip over the hassock like Rob did every episode. That I'd buy a ticket for!