Arash Markazi

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  • 05:23 PM ET  10.14

Emeril Lagasse
Emeril Lagasse shows off a plate of Po' boys at the opening of Lagasse's Stadium, his sports bar and book at the Palazzo.
Courtesy of The Palazzo

LAS VEGAS – Even as Emeril Lagasse walks around his new stadium styled sports bar and book at the Palazzo, aptly called Lagasse’s Stadium, he can’t help but belt out his famous catch phrase as he looks at the over 100 HD flat screens, including the 9-foot-by-16-foot big screen, staring back at him. “Bam! There’s a TV there. Bam! There’s a TV there. Bam! There’s a TV there,” he says. “I wanted to create a place where you can watch the game no matter where you sit.”

 

Lagasse’s Stadium is the first sports book inside of a restaurant on the Las Vegas strip and I recently sat down with Legasse in his newest establishment to talk to him about mixing gambling and fine cuisine, how he convinced Drew Brees to sign with the Saints and if this is the year New Orleans finally plays in a Super Bowl.

 

Markazi: You’ve always been associated with fine dining and five-star restaurants, why open a sports bar and book?

 

Lagasse: When they approached me to do this I was a little like, um, OK, let’s see what we can do. They asked me what I would do with the space and what I wanted to do was turn it into a sports bar. I think we got the best outdoor space. I wanted to give people a lot of options, if they wanted to watch the game outside or smoke a cigar, I wanted them to have that option. But to me it was about the food and the fun. I’m a sports junkie. My wife and I are sports fanatics. We have season tickets for the Saints and Hornets and we also supports the New York teams because we’re there a lot. Eli Manning is one of my good friends even though he’s in the same conference as Drew Brees and the Saints. They play each other this week and my philosophy is I can’t lose.

 

Markazi: The most unique aspect of this place is that it’s a sports book within a restaurant, which has never been done before, right?

 

Lagasse: That’s right. Before when you went to a sports bar you couldn’t bet and when you went to a sports book you couldn’t eat. You would have to go some place else to do one or the other. So now not only do we have a sports book we have it front and center so if you’re watching a game you want to bet on it’s right in front of you. This place is like a frat house on Saturdays for college football and on Sundays it’s a more reserved NFL crowd.

 

Markazi: This is still an Emeril Lagasse restaurant at the end of the day so what’s the food going to be like?

 

Lagasse: We kept the food simple. I got together with my team and we picked our favorite ballpark and stadium food from around the country that we just sort “Emerilized” and since we are part of New Orleans we got awesome New Orleans barbeque shrimp, Po’ boys and everything from Stromboli to cheese steak, French Dip to a Reuben, salads to great deserts. You name it, we got it. Stadium food has really changed. In the new stadiums in New York they got the Shake Shack and some of the best pizzerias and delis opening up shop. It’s really changed. We’re dialed into that but we didn’t want to get too far away from what we are and what we do. The Po’ boys here are made with special bread flown in from New Orleans. We wanted to make the best and most authentic stadium food anywhere.

 

Markazi: This spot used to be Jay-Z’s club, did you ever think you’d be replace Jay-Z at anything?

 

Lagasse: I never thought I’d open a sports bar or book. I certainly didn’t think I’d replace or improve upon something Jay Z did. I just wanted it to be unique from the stadium seating (hence the name) to the dugout where you can grab a great steak to the outside where you can watch the game on the strip while smoking a cigar. I wanted something unique. We even made five private luxury boxes or suites where you can watch the game with your friends. We’re going to show sports and game from anywhere whether it’s a soccer match or a cricket match. You name it, we’ll show it. You can’t compare this to any other sports bar or book in the world.    

 

Markazi: You’re a long-time Saints season ticket holder, what’s your take on the Saints this season?

 

Lagasse: I don’t want to jinx it but Drew Brees looks great. He’s on fire. We look good. Then again I said that when my Ole Miss got upset but South Carolina so I don’t want to jinx it. I’m very close to a lot of the Saints including Drew and Coach Sean Payton, we’re all good friends. I’ve been a season ticket holder for 25 years so I’m hoping this is the year. We have a big game against the Giants so that’s going to be great. If we can keep the guys healthy and stay on fire this could be a special season.

 

Markazi: I heard you helped recruit Drew Brees to New Orleans when he was a free agent is that true?

 

Lagasse: That’s true story. I wrote a letter to he and his wife and I told him if he accepted the position as the quarterback of the Saints that I would cook special dinner for him at his house and that he would never have to worry about getting a table at any of my restaurants. The same thing happened the night they drafted Reggie Bush. I’ll never forget it. I got a call from Coach Payton and he said that he couldn’t say anything but he needed to get a table for 9:30pm that they were flying in from New York. I said absolutely and at 9:30 he walks in with Reggie Bush and the place went crazy. Everybody gave him a standing ovation and they were chanting, “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!” New Orleans basically only has football. We have the Hornets and they’re a great team but there’s something about football in New Orleans that gets people upside down. When they win, it makes Monday a hell of a lot easier.

 

Markazi: How has sports helped New Orleans recover from everything they’ve had to go through?

 

Lagasse: When the Saints are doing well the town is doing well and the spirit is well and productivity is well. When the Saints are losing, Mondays are not a very good day. It’s tough to get people motivated. A lot people live for the Saints and we got our hands, fingers and toes crossed that this is our year and we’ll see what happens.

 

Markazi: You were always a fan so what is it like now to be in position where you’re on the quarterback and coaches speed dials and you’re helping recruit players to New Orleans?

 

Lagasse: It’s cool that I have that relationship with the folks at the Saints and the folks at the Hornets too. I’m always excited to meet people and have them eat my food and have a good time at one of my restaurants and if they decide to come back and play for one of my teams, even better.   

 

Markazi: Finally, what has been your favorite sports moment either as a fan or at one of your restaurants?

 

Lagasse: Well, when the Saints almost made it to the Super Bowl that was something. I flew up to Chicago for the NFC Championship game and sat next to the mayor coincidentally. That was definitely a highlight even though we lost because it was such a great season and we came so close. Another one would be a couple years ago when I was in Las Vegas at my restaurant Delmonico’s Steakhouse at the Venetian and my wife and I contacted an AV company and set up a television set in the kitchen, which we never have because we wanted to watch the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots. So we set up the TV and put a table with some chairs and made stadium food like chicken wings, jalapeno poppers, mini burgers and stuff and watched Eli Manning bring it home at the Super Bowl. It was unbelievable. It was actually the first time I ever made a bet at a sports book. I put my money on Eli and the Giants and came out a winner.

 

 

 

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