Emeril Lagasse on kids, pressure cookers, food dreams and trips to Toronto with his marching band

On a recent visit to the Chatelaine Test Kitchen to show off his new appliances for The Shopping Channel, we grilled top chef Emeril Lagasse, 54, about kids, cooking and why he bangs the drum for Canada.

CANADIAN CONTENT
My dad’s French-Canadian and my mom’s Portuguese. I grew up in New England, but at least once a year we came to Canada. As a young boy, I played in a Portuguese-American marching band, a very esteemed group, and we always had a concert tour in Toronto for the Portuguese community.

WORKING FROM HOME
When I’m home, I cook about 95 per cent of the time. My wife, Alden, says it perfectly: “I’m a pretty good cook, but why should I? I make a pretty good sous chef.”

INTIMIDATION FACTOR
I don’t get invited out often; I don’t know why. I get invited out to go to a restaurant, but I don’t get invited to many people’s homes. A friend had me over recently, and I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I really didn’t know how to behave. He said, “You just sit here and drink wine with my wife and your wife and friends and I’ll do the cooking!” I was just like, “OK!” It was delicious.

FAMILY TIME
Until not so long ago, my family travelled with me a lot, but now the kids are at an age that we have to be very careful about how much they’re being taken out of school. So, the time at home becomes really super-valuable.

CITY OF BITES
Toronto is one of my favourite cities. We’re big fans of Susur Lee (left). But there are so many great restaurants here. It’s kind of like asking in New York, “What’s your favourite restaurant?” There’s just so much good stuff.

NO TASTE FOR FAME
I’m not caught up in any of that stuff. I put my pants on the same way as just about everybody else does!

HUNGER GAMES
At my restaurant, [my 9-year-old daughter] Meril gets her apron on and she wants to start working pastry; [my 10-year-old son] E.J. wants to work the hot station, he wants to expedite, he’s in the dining room, he’s talking to customers…it’s amazing.

TOP TOOLS
Even as a chef and a creator of the pressure cooker, I was a little intimidated by it in the way that it works. Now I use it probably three days a week.

SOUL FOOD
I dream about food, I wake up thinking about food. We have a big joke in my house: as soon as I wake up, I’m [wondering], ‘What’s for dinner?’ My family gives me a lot of grief about that. I want my brain to begin processing: this is what I’ve got to shop for, this is when I’m going to prep. It comes from the heart. I never think about it as a job.

KICK IT UP A NOTCH
I was American-schooled and classically trained, then added ingredients and techniques of other cultures. Now I’m very, very connected to the soil and to the sea. If you have those great ingredients – and it’s like the Italian grandmother coming out of me – you don’t have to do a lot. You just keep it very simple and very clean and it speaks for itself.”

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