BY CLAUDE SOLNIK | On a recent evening, Chef Emeril Lagasse carried a dish out of the kitchen of Rodos, a restaurant he launched in the Flatiron District. Lagasse looked a little harried, but happy, as he hurried around the restaurant near a date tree. Now and then he stopped to pause for photographs (which promptly showed up on Facebook) before returning to the kitchen, the backstage area for the Broadway of this eatery.
While Emeril Lagasse remains a celebrity, he remains a very hands-on chef, developing and tweaking menus and working in the kitchen, as well as working a little charisma on diners.
After opening restaurants in cities such as New Orleans, where his business is based, and Las Vegas, he worked with Yiannis Chatiris, a Greek restaurateur, to bring his brand of dining to Chelsea.
Rodos, at 39 W. 24th St., launched with a fairly low-profile soft opening Jan. 8, tweaking offerings as a few articles announced Emeril’s arrival.
The 59-year-old chef, born in Fall River, Mass., helped create the concept of the celebrity chef, as one of the earliest hires at the Food Network.
He became famous with shows such as “Emeril Live” and “Essence of Emeril,” as well for a demonstrative style peppered with exclamations such as “Kick it up a notch!” and “Bam!”
While Rodos is something new for New York, it’s also a remake of what was formerly known as the Mykonos Blue Grill, which Chatiris, who is from the Greek Island of Rhodes, created. It is named after the Greek word for Rhodes.
Chatiris also owns Mykonos Blue, located nearby at the Hotel Hayden, at 127 W. 28th St. Rodos is a blend of Greek and Cajun/Creole cuisine, marking a combination of two cuisines and two chefs.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Chatiris said at Rodos.
While Rodos is Emeril’s first venture in New York City, it’s part of a bigger adventure as the chef launches an entirely new business and grows his brand.
The 112-seat restaurant was launched as a collaboration between Chatiris and Lagasse’s new consulting division called We Love Food Hospitality.
A Lagasse spokesperson said the goal of his new business is “to consult with both existing and new concept restaurants on menu development, culinary training and other restaurant operations.”
Lagasse brought his touch to Flatiron, launching the new business on what may be the world’s biggest culinary stage.
Rodos is located in the Hotel Henri, where it operates on the ground floor, giving the hotel a little more cachet.
“I’ve been operating restaurants for over 30 years now and it’s truly my passion and something my team and I take great pride in,” Lagasse said regarding the Rodos launch. “This is about using what we’ve learned and perfected over the years and sharing our craft.”
Rodos, he said, is about injecting his brand of “food and service in established restaurants looking to reach the next level.”
The restaurant came out of their relationship, which includes time in Greece — the source of much of their place’s menu.
“After knowing each other professionally for years, Yiannis and Emeril traveled to Greece together on several occasions,” according to a spokesperson for the consulting business. “After a food tour of Emeril’s restaurants in New Orleans, talk started amongst the two about collaborating to overhaul the menu at Chatiris’s popular New York City eatery.”
The duo revamped the menu, renovated and rebranded, turning an ordinary restaurant into a business that ties in with Emeril’s brand.
“This collaboration is a testament to our long-standing friendship, and love of great food and hospitality,” Chatiris added.
Lagasse is the chef and owner of 11 restaurants, including four in New Orleans such as Emeril’s, NOLA, Emeril’s Delmonico and Meril, as well as his headquarters.
His career took off in 1982 after he replaced Paul Prudhomme as executive chef before opening Emeril’s in New Orleans, soon dubbed “Restaurant of the Year” by Esquire magazine.
He also owns and operates three in Las Vegas including Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, Delmonico Steakhouse and Lagasse’s Stadium, and three at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, including Emeril’s Fish House, Emeril’s Chop House and Burgers And More by Emeril.
Before opening in New York, Lagasse opened Emeril’s Coastal Italian in Miramar Beach, Fla., the state where he lives.
While many New York City restaurateurs hail from Greece and many in Astoria offer traditional Greek menus, few in Manhattan offer Greek menus.
Rodos offers dips, such as Butternut Fava “Hummus,” Taramosalata, Tzatziki, Tirokafteri and Melitzanosalata.
You can also get Cajun caviar and Horiatiki served with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, olives, peppers, onion feta and barley rusk.
Rodos features classic Emeril entrees, such as Miss Hilda’s Pork Chop ($33) seasoned with pimento moida and molho cru, Lacquered Long Island ½ Duck ($36) glazed with hazelnut, citrus and Aleppo and Lavraki ($32) and grilled Branzino topped with kritamos leaves, ladolemono and capers
Lagasse’s restaurant business, Emeril’s Homebase, is located in New Orleans including operations and a test kitchen.
While Lagasse is known as a chef, he also hosted more than 2,000 shows on the Food Network and remains the food correspondent for ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Lagasse most recently teamed with Amazon to launch “Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse,” earning five daytime Emmy nominations and winning for Outstanding Culinary Program.
The show also was a semifinalist for a James Beard Award in the category of Outstanding Personality of Host.
He is also the author of 19 bestselling cookbooks, including the most recent, “Essential Emeril: Favorite Recipes” and “Hard-Won Wisdom from My Life in the Kitchen.”
In addition to producing fine food, Lagasse is known for his foundation, which teaches the culinary and related trades.
In 2002, he created the Emeril Lagasse Foundation to support children’s educational programs that inspire and mentor young people through the culinary arts, nutrition, healthy eating and life skills.
His firm said the foundation has distributed more than $10 million in grants benefitting children’s charities in New Orleans, Las Vegas and on the Gulf Coast.
In other spots on the small and big screen, he appeared on “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” and did the voice-over for Marlon the Gator in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.”
Lagasse played himself in an episode of HBO’s “Treme” and starred with Robert Urich in “Emeril,” an NBC sitcom where he played a fictionalized version of himself.