Chef Emeril Lagasse received his first culinary experience from his mother, Hilda, when he was a boy growing up in the small town of Fall River, Massachusetts. As a teenager, he worked at a Portuguese bakery where he mastered the art of bread and pastry baking. Upon high school graduation, Lagasse was offered a full scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music, but decided to pursue a career as a professional chef.
Chef de Cuisine
Chef Brian Mottola has spent 15-plus years cooking in award-winning restaurants such as Carpe Diem in Charlotte, Boulevard in San Francisco and Emeril’s in New Orleans. In September 2012, he took the helm of e2 emeril’s eatery in Charlotte, N.C., as its chef de cuisine.
Mottola’s love for cooking and great cuisine was first shaped around his family’s dinner table. He grew up in Madison, N.J., watching his Italian-born mother prepare family meals, mostly classic Italian dishes such as hearty lasagna, pastas and soups. “I grew up in a dinner-table family,” Mottola says. “Any time of day, that’s where you could find us.”
After graduating from the prestigious culinary school Johnson and Wales in 1997, Mottola began working as a line cook for renowned Chef Emeril Lagasse at his original restaurant in New Orleans’ Warehouse District. In 1999, Mottola moved to Las Vegas to help open Chef Emeril’s Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian Casino and Resort, where he served as the butcher and saucier. Next, he worked under Chef Nancy Oaks at her prestigious San Francisco restaurant, Boulevard.
Mottola eventually moved back to New Jersey to work as a sous chef at Café Matisse, and he later opened his own restaurant, Pop’s, in honor of his grandfather. He owned and operated Pop’s, serving Cajun, Creole and barbecue-style cuisine, until 2008 when he moved to Charlotte, N.C. Mottola first worked as the sous chef at Carpe Diem under Chef Paul Ketterhagen, before rejoining Emeril’s team to open e2 emeril’s eatery in January 2012 and serving as sous chef.
Mottola is hands-on in the kitchen, using only the best-quality local and regional ingredients to drive his seasonal menu and nightly specials. “We’ll regularly change the menu based on available local ingredients that are in season,” Mottola says. “I’m excited to continue Chef Emeril’s tradition of New Orleans cuisine featuring the great products available here in North Carolina.”
Jeff Wakem hails from Providence, RI, and a family with deep ties to food and hospitality. Meals and holiday celebrations centered around the family table - these daily rituals, coupled with his first job as a pizza maker at a small family-owned Italian restaurant, would inspire his life long love of people and food.
While attending Johnson & Wales University, Chef Emeril's alma mater, Wakem explored the culinary arts and earned an associates degree, before pursuing a bachelors in Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management.
Following college, Wakem made Orlando his home and he has been influential in the burgeoning restaurant scene here over the past 15 years.
In 2004, Wakem worked with Darden to help launch their newest restaurant Seasons 52. He assisted with the development of the concept until March 2010, when he was recruited by Emeril Lagasse to lead the operations of his Asian-Polynesian restaurant Emeril's Tchoup Chop at Loews Royal Pacific Resort as general manager.
Today he welcomes guests to the Emeril's family at Chef Emeril's new restaurant in Uptown Charlotte, as he shares Lagasse's signature warm style of hospitality and ensures diners get the most out of their dining experience at e2 emeril's eatery.