Chef Emeril Lagasse is the chef/proprietor of 12 restaurants in New Orleans, Las Vegas, Orlando and Bethlehem, Pa. As a national TV personality, he has hosted more than 2,000 shows on the Food Network, and is the food correspondent for ABC’s "Good Morning America.” In 2014, Lagasse participated in his third consecutive season as a main guest chef in Bravo’s hit food series, “Top Chef,” and joined TNT as co-host for their cooking series, On the Menu. Most recently, “Emeril’s Florida” entered its third season in January 2015 on the Cooking Channel.
Lagasse is the best-selling author of 18 cookbooks, with his 19th, Essential Emeril, slated to release in October 2015. Emeril Lagasse joined the Martha Stewart family of brands in 2008; Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) acquired the assets related to Emeril’s media and merchandising business, including television programming, cookbooks, the emerils.com website and his licensed kitchen and food products.
In 2002, Emeril established the Emeril Lagasse Foundation to support children’s educational programs that inspire and mentor young people through the culinary arts, nutrition, healthy eating, and important life skills. To date, the Foundation has distributed $5.7 million in grants for children’s charities in New Orleans, Las Vegas and on the Gulf Coast. For his philanthropic efforts, Emeril was named the 2013 Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.
Chef de Cuisine
Armed with more than 20 years of experience in the culinary arts, Ryan Vargas took the helm at Emeril's Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando as chef de cuisine in October 2013. Vargas, a Hawaii native, joined Emeril's Tchoup Chop after spending about 13 years leading the kitchens at some of the island's top resorts, including the Four Seasons Resort in Hualalai and the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua Maui. Before moving to Orlando, Vargas also led the kitchen at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where in 2011 he was voted as "Palm Beach County Best Chef" by the Palm Beach Post.
Growing up on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii, Vargas looked up to his father, who was the Master Chief Chef for the U.S. Navy, and inherited his love of great cuisine. "He would take me to the mess hall, and I recall being excited and amazed with the sights, sounds and smells," Vargas remembers. "I knew at the age of 5 that I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps."
Complementing Executive Chef Emeril Lagasse's bold and fresh flavors, Vargas describes his style of cooking as "fun and whimsical, classics-with-a-twist, and not complicated but refined." His techniques and styles reflect the melting pot of island life, mixing different Asian cuisines with Pacific Island influences.
Classically trained, Vargas graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y. in 1991 with an associate's degree in Culinary Arts. He lives in Orlando with his wife, Rhonda, and their three children, Lakea, Lilinoe and Rocco.
A seasoned veteran of Emeril Lagasse’s Orlando restaurants with experience in all facets of front of house operations, Andy Vaughn today serves as the general manager of Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando®. As GM, Vaughn is in charge of all front of house operations and team management for the restaurant.
Vaughn joined the Emeril’s team as a buser at Emeril’s Orlando in 2002, quickly being promoted to back then front waiter before joining the management team about two years later. Vaughn served as the restaurant’s dining room manager for several years, where he also expanded his knowledge of and palate for wine. In 2008, he was promoted to sommelier of the restaurant, in charge of its award-winning wine list. Vaughn was promoted to general manager at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in December 2013.
Originally from Annapolis, Md., Vaughn’s family moved to Eustis, Fla. while he was in high school. After graduation, Vaughan served as a First Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy for four years, deploying for two tours of duty in the Middle East. After finishing his military service in 2000, Vaughn returned to Orlando, where he still lives with his wife, Sami, and their son, Wesley.