'Emeril's Florida' features Bradenton-area chefs

mclear@bradenton.comJanuary 4, 2014 

Back in September, Emeril Lagasse ate octopus on Longboat Key. We all can watch him do it Sunday.

Lagasse, the celebrated chef who's as well-known for his enthusiastic TV performances as for his New Orleans cuisine, was in the Bradenton area a few months back, checking out local eateries for his series "Emeril's Florida."

One of his stops was Maison Blanche, the renowned Longboat Key restaurant owned by chef Jose Martinez.

"He called one day and asked if I would be interested in doing a show with him," Martinez said. "Every year we get about a half-dozen of the major awards, so he had heard of us. But I had never met the guy, never met him before. He came, and he asked me to make him four or five dishes."

Martinez served Emeril octopus, a cod dish called brandade, suckling pig and a few other specialties.

The episode is scheduled to air at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the Cooking Channel -- the opening episode of the second season of "Emeril's Florida."

It won't be the only time a Bradenton-area restaurant will be featured on the series this season. Right around the same time that Lagasse visited Maison Blanche, he also stopped in at Beach Bistro on Holmes Beach.

Beach Bistro proprietor

Sean Murphy says he hasn't been told yet when his episode will air. But a representative of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which is working with the Cooking Channel on the series, said the episode featuring Beach Bistro is tentatively set for mid-March. That's subject to change, and the schedule won't be firmed up until late February.

But on Sunday, viewers can definitely see Lagasse dining with Martinez.

"We chatted, we opened a bottle of wine to go with each dish," Martinez told the Herald. "I liked him, he's a nice man."

Beach Bistro's Murphy had the same Lagasse experience.

"He's absolutely charming," Murphy said. "He and I agreed to help each other out on a couple of of charity projects we're working on."

Sunday's episode that includes Martinez is titled "Coming to America" and it features chefs who emigrated to Florida from other countries.

Two are from Tampa - BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT and Guillermo Quezada, a Leto High School student who was recently named Florida's top high school chef.

Martinez was born and raised in France, and for 10 years, from 1990 until 2000, he operated a Paris restaurant also called Maison Blanche. He opened his Longboat Key restaurant in 2002.

Last month, Zagat, the prestigious dining guide, named Maison Blanche the best French restaurant in the entire Tampa bay area.

Martinez enjoyed cooking for Emeril and taping the TV show, but he doesn't expect that the extra exposure will do a lot for his business.

"We're in a tourist area, and we have some regulars, sure, but mostly it's tourists and they're not here that often," he said. "They may come here every two or three years. We may not see them for 10 years. Any advertising is better than none, but I don't think we will get that many more people. But it was a happy experience."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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