John Kessler, My Parents and Emeril’s

Life is strange. You wake up expecting a professional photographer in your apartment and wind up at Emeril’s with the AJC’s food critic and your parents.

Here’s how that happens.

Originally, John Kessler was supposed to come over today with a photographer to finalize the profile he’s writing and to snap photos of me at my computer. I told him that my parents were flying in, but that I could schedule around them. Instead, he invited us all out to lunch; the photo session postponed.

Since my parents are staying in Buckhead, John suggested Emeril’s. I knew my parents would like that so I gave it the thumbs up. [We had been there once before and enjoyed the ambience, but not the food.]

I picked my parents up at their hotel (“Your car is filthy, Adam,” observed my mother) and drove them the five feet to the house that BAM! built.

The best thing I can say about Emeril’s Atlanta is that it’s beautiful. It borders on the tacky, but I love it. The door has etched glass and an ornate leaf-like sculpted handle:

The bar has a coppery, woody, marbley feel and a large portrait of Mr. Lagasse looming overhead:


The inside is like a cross between a country club and the Haunted Mansion:


And the most gorgeous feature is the wine cove; a towering glass structure stacked with glistening bottles:


With a bright red chandelier:


We walked in and were greeted by the host.

“The Roberts party?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Your guest is at the bar.”

And hiding behind a column was John, pad in hand and eager to go. Introductions were made and we followed the maitre’d to our table.

Talking commenced. John asked my parents about their eating habits, my eating habits, whether or not I cooked as a kid and how often we ate out.

“Every night,” said my mom. John laughed.

A waiter came around and took our orders. “If everyone could order something different, that’d be great,” said John.

I ordered the fried oyster salad and the red fish.

More talking commenced. John discussed his career trajectory, how he almost took the LSAT (but forgot to sign the check!), and how instead of becoming a doctor like his father, he married one.

The appetizers arrived:


Mine was pretty good. Not great. The food at Emeril’s is theme park food. Which, I suppose, is approrpriate since Emeril is the Mickey Mouse of the food world; complete with catchphrase and a mousey head.

John sampled some of everyones and declared his appetizer–shrimp remoulade–to be pretty good.

The dishes were taken away.

The entrees came soon after:


The red fish was fine; battered in the same batter as the oysters. Not a ton of flavor, but the sauce made up for that. The waiter made the following ridiculous comment: “If anyone needs some more essence in their dish, we can take it in the back and BAM it up a bit.”

We all stared back at him puzzled and disturbed. He walked away.

After sampling everyone’s dishes, John took more notes. My parents told celebrity stalking stories (Timothy Dalton’s snub–“I’m never seeing another James Bond movie again!” said my mother) and John gave tips on getting into a restaurant (“Just show up; there are always cancellations. I have friends who got into the French Laundry that way.”)

Finally the plates were cleared and dessert menus came. We split a banana cream pie four ways and John ordered the port wine sorbet only to be brought the bourbon pecan sorbet instead:


I thought the banana cream pie was the highlight of the meal, but that’s not saying much. John thought it was ok, not as good as New York Prime’s (my parents’ favorite restaurant). And the sorbet was merely mediocre.

We walked out together into the crisp Spring air.

We said our goodbyes and got into our separate cars.

“That was cool,” said my mom.

“Ya,” I said.

“I need a bathroom,” said my dad.

“Bam!” said a strange voice in the trunk.

Men in white smocks quickly invaded the car, removing the strait-jacketed Emeril from the back. “Bam! Bam!”

Life is strange.

2 thoughts on “John Kessler, My Parents and Emeril’s”

  1. I found your site after searching for John Kessler on the internet. It seems that you’ve got an in with him. Do you know where he is??? Ever since they revamped the new Food & Drink section of the AJC, I’ve not seen his articles. Please ask him to shoot me an e-mail to tell me where he is! (No, I don’t know him personally, but you seem to have had such good luck with him that I thought you’d be able to convince him.) I miss him. And in the meantime, I’ll just get my food fix on your site! Thanks, maggie

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