With Martha’s help Emeril going strong 20 years on

Nearly 20 years after Emeril Lagasse begged, borrowed and scrounged every penny he could to open his own restaurant, the celebrity chef worried it was all slipping away.

Lagasse’s 17-year run on the Food Network was over. Hurricane Katrina had caused at least a $1 million loss to his three New Orleans-based restaurants and cut his profits by a third.

But just when things were looking bleakest — Bam! — Martha Stewart kicked it up a notch and the 50-year-old Lagasse is back.

“She showed up at a tough time when I thought the whole ship might be going down,” Lagasse said during a recent interview. “Basically, what I have now is a business partner.”

He also has a string of successful restaurants, a new television program, regular appearances in Stewart’s magazines, and has a 10-cookbook publishing deal (the third of which will be released in June).

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the New York-based media and merchandising company founded by the domesticity maven, in 2008 bought the rights to Lagasse’s franchise of cookbooks, television shows and kitchen products from him for $45 million in cash and $5 million in stock. The final price could rise to up to $70 million.

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