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Emeril salutes troops at McGuire

MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. -- Staff Sgt. Kevin Casciano, a chef with the 305th Services Squadron, and Emeril Lagasse discuss meals ready to eat during the Sept. 25 taping of the celebrity chef's Thanksgiving special here.  The show is scheduled to air Nov. 16.  Check local listings for times.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Denise Gould)

MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. -- Staff Sgt. Kevin Casciano, a chef with the 305th Services Squadron, and Emeril Lagasse discuss meals ready to eat during the Sept. 25 taping of the celebrity chef's Thanksgiving special here. The show is scheduled to air Nov. 16. Check local listings for times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Denise Gould)

MCGUIRE AIR FORCE BASE, N.J. (AFPN) -- Things got hot and spicy here Sept. 25 as celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse filmed his Thanksgiving special of “Emeril Live” as part of his campaign called “Emeril Kicks Up the Holidays” on the Food Network.

An audience of 2,000 military and family members, representing all branches of service, participated in a night of cooking, music and, of course, eating.

“We’ve been planning this for (more than) a year,” Emeril said. “What better way to salute our troops and give them a lot of ‘thank yous’ for keeping us safe.”

Emeril has wanted to do a tribute to the military for several years.

“We’ve gotten so much feedback from bases and the troops,” said Karen Katz, Emeril Live’s executive producer. “We’ve always wanted to do it, and everything just came together this year. Thanksgiving seemed appropriate for the military because of all the sacrifices the military and their families make for our country. This was our way of thanking them.”

And while the idea of bringing a show to a military base sounds great, the logistics it takes to make it happen are even greater.

“In some ways it was easy, like in the case of cooperation here at McGuire and from the Department of Defense in terms of support,” Katz said. “But the physical challenges were striking. We had to bring everything: lights, staging and all the showbiz elements.”

Emeril’s staff first contacted the United Services Organization to inquire about the possibility of doing a show for the military.

“Emeril’s production folks came to the USO to get some assistance,” said Mitch Marovitz, director of entertainment for World USO. “Emeril wanted to do something for the troops. I told them it would be great to go on a military base. So we narrowed our choices down, and I took (Katz) on a site visit to McGuire and a few other bases.”

Katz said they looked at several different locations but for a variety of reasons chose McGuire AFB.

“The folks at McGuire were so accommodating,” she said. “It made it an easy choice. We’ve been blown away with how terrific everyone here has been. ‘No’ is not in anyone’s vocabulary. (With) such a ‘can-do’ attitude, we could not be in a better environment. We have never been in an environment so cooperative.”

Country music singer Trace Adkins, who performed two of his hit songs, as well as Doc Gibbs and the Emeril Live Band, joined Emeril on stage. Other guests were former prisoner of war, Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson; Vanessa Baker, Miss New Jersey; and Master Sgt. John Nicotra.

Nicotra was chosen to appear after he mailed Emeril a postcard from the Middle East asking Emeril to send the Department of Defense a good recipe for jambalaya to improve the one served in the meals ready to eat. Emeril obliged Nicotra by preparing a large pot of smoked turkey and sausage jambalaya.

Although this was not Emeril’s first time on a military base, it was his first time crossing into the blue.

“It’s my first time on an Air Force base,” he said. “Everyone has been so hospitable. I just hope I kept up my end of the bargain.”

During the show, he prepared lobster and corn chowder, jambalaya, sweet potato-bacon biscuits and Boston cream pie. The show’s crew handed out food to the audience during commercial breaks.

At the show’s closing, Emeril told the audience, “A special thanks to all of you in the military. You make us proud to be Americans.” The show is scheduled to air Nov. 16. Check local listings for times. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)

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