MANATEE -- Two southwest Florida restaurants kicked it up a notch Monday when famous restaurateur, chef and TV personality Emeril Lagasse filmed them for "Emeril's Florida."
The show airs at 2:30 p.m. Sundays on the Cooking Channel and highlights different cuisines and culinary arts displayed at restaurants throughout Florida. He was filming Monday for next year's shows.
Lagasse paid visits to Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant at 12306 46th Ave. W. in Cortez and Caragiulos Italian Restaurant at 69 S. Palm Ave. in Sarasota on Monday. He sampled dishes and spent time talking to the restaurant owners about their culinary techniques and recipes.
Segment producer Kristina Garcia said "Emeril's Florida" is now filming for its fourth season and the team who produces the show researches Florida's culinary scene and takes suggestions from Lagasse for each episode. She also said the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and Visit Florida have some input.
According to Visit Florida, 36 percent of U.S. tourists travel to the Sunshine State to experience all its culinary offerings.
Lagasse moved to Florida and met Pat Roberts, the executive producer and president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters, Garcia said. The two decided to team up to encourage more "foodies" to travel to Florida.
Lagasse and his "Emeril's Florida" crew stopped at Caragiulos in downtown Sarasota, where they met with Rob Caragiulo and his four brothers and talked about the restaurant they've owned and operated for 26 years.
Rob Caragiulo said they focus on locally sourced ingredients and dishes. They showcased several Florida-based entrées for the show, including Cedar Key clams and Lake Meadow Farms duck.
"We're promoting a lot of the local flavors," Caragiulo said. "'Emeril's Florida' is really a great promotion for Florida."
The visit from Lagasse meant a lot to the Caragiulo brothers.
"He is exactly who is in his TV persona; he couldn't have been any nicer," Caragiulo said. "I personally was star struck because of growing up watching him on TV as a young restaura
teur. Without any formal training or mentors, he was one of our heroes."
Caragiulo said he was impressed with the crew's dedication to production and said they'd be back four times before the Caragiulos piece was finished.
After spending some time with the Caragiulo brothers in Sarasota, Lagasse and crew made their way north to Cortez.
Laurie Jones, manager of Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant, said this isn't the first time the restaurant and fish market has received widespread publicity. They've been featured in Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast magazines as well as the New York Times, Jones said. Despite the track record for national exposure, she said the establishment was thrilled to welcome Lagasse.
"Emeril is pretty big," Jones said. "We're very blessed."
The celebrity chef sampled six dishes at Star Fish including the soft shell crab sandwich, a shrimp and oyster po' boy and blackened grouper. Jones said the episode mainly features Karen Bell, the 15-year owner of Star Fish and nearby AP Bell Fish Co.
"He also spent time in our fish market and watched one of our fish mongers, Reynaldo Sosa, filet grouper and was very impressed with his skill," Jones said. "He showed him some filet techniques Emeril had not seen before."
Garcia said the episodes featuring Caragiulos and Star Fish Company Market and Restaurant will air sometime between January and March.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.