Young Chef Lands Dish in Emeril's Top Restaurants

RestaurantsLifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingCookingHuman InterestEmeril Lagasse

You can't miss Janee Taylor's infectious laugh in the kitchen.  She's got a lot to smile about these days.

NOCCA culinary department chair Dana D’Anzi Tuohy describes her as, “Bright and talented.  You can tell she’s just a really, really good girl.”

Taylor is the winner of Emeril Lagasse's ‘Dish that Makes a Difference’ contest.  As a high school senior, she beat out other NOCCA students with her ‘Louisiana Surf and Turf.’  “The first thing that came to mind when I was coming up with the dish was to put the seafood on top of the steak but then something told me it would be more common like that, so I decided to incorporate the seafood inside of the mashed potatoes.”

Throughout the month of March, Taylor's dish will be featured in Emeril's restaurants in New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas.   Top chefs like David Slater will be cooking up a teenage culinary creation.  Slater says it’s already a hit.  “We sell so many steaks here and since this dish has been on the menu, we probably sell 40 or 50 a night.”

It’s not just a great opportunity for Taylor, but it’s a great for the community too.  $5 from each ‘Louisiana Surf and Turf’ served will benefit the non-profit Emeril Lagasse Foundation.  In turn, that’ll help more students like Taylor who says she hopes to one day, follow in his footsteps.  “He’s always been my idol and even before attending NOCCA I’ve always dreamed to meet him and once that day came and it happened and I was physically standing in front of him taking pictures, I couldn’t do anything but cry tears of joy.  I tried to clear them up, but they just kept coming out!”

Taylor is now attending Emeril's alma mater, Johnson and Wales University.  She even worked a summer stint at his namesake restaurant.

But, it hasn't been an easy road.

Taylor’s mother passed away when she was one year old.  Her grandmother took her in, becoming her culinary inspiration until she too passed, a day before Taylor’s 15th birthday.  Today, the young chef leans on her godmother, friends and extended family.

Through tears, Taylor says, “They tell me all the time that I have a big future ahead of me and that keeps me going.  It motivates me to keep going and push it forward, so it gets a little emotional because I`m excited and this is a great experience for me so if I get emotional I’m sorry.”

However these are tears of joy, for a very bright future ahead.

“I know that they’re proud of me.  I’m proud of myself and all of my friends are proud of me and I thank them for that and supporting me and wanting my dream to come true just as much as I do.”  Thanks to a certain celebrity chef, Taylor is one dish closer to making that dream come true.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times