Emeril’s GC Fish House Turns Two

For many of us the images are still too vivid. The aerial view of Biloxi Beach from the news choppers was heartbreaking. In the space of a single day the lives of some 200,000 of our neighbors had changed forever thanks to Hurricane Katrina. The gleaming casinos that had finally delivered Mississippi from the economic purgatory that had enslaved it since Reconstruction were now shattered like the proverbial house of cards they were.

From Pascagoula to Bay St. Louis everything had changed. No more was that evident than in the Pass Christian home of Alden and Emeril Legasse. The world’s most celebrated chef had lost more than most. Three of his then nine restaurants were in New Orleans as was his primary residence and the base of operations for his culinary empire, called Emeril’s Homebase. To top it off his treasured second home, the place that held so many memories for his family was destroyed.

Alden was a native of Gulfport, the unofficial capitol of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Although she usually stayed out of the restaurant decisions, this time Mrs. Legasse would exercise some of her unique influence. When the Emeril’s Homebase crew started mulling the idea of building a Gulf Coast restaurant to aid the area in its recovery, it was she that suggested it be in Gulfport and partnered with local people.

Gulfport natives Terry Green and Rick Carter purchased the 40 acres that had once been the Gulfport Grand Casino. In its stead they would build the Island View Casino Resort. Almost a year to the day of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall Carter and Green opened Phase I of their opus. The next spring they opened Phase II and on June 21, 2007 the crown jewel of the resort opened, Emeril’s Gulf Coast Fish House.

The GC Fish House, as the folks at Homebase call it, is a study in opulence.
With thousands of hand-blown glass bubbles hanging from the ceilings and a 4000 bottle wine tower concealing a semi-private 80 seat banquet room, it is unlike anything ever seen on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is a restaurant of stunning beauty and glamour. Yet at the same time it is a celebration of the blue collar, roughneck attitude of the Gulf Coast.

The menu is composed mostly of Coastal Cuisine with the local seafood taking center stage. However, there is a splash of Fall River, MA on the menu. As his gift to the people of the Third Coast, Legasse offers a sampling of his Portuguese heritage, a cuisine that is quite at home in an area that has in its past fallen under the rule of France, Spain and England.

To man the kitchen at the Fish House Legasse tabbed local chef Steve D’Angelo. Now Chef de Cuisine, D’Angelo once worked for Legasse at the flagship Emeril’s, NOLA in the French Quarter and in Las Vegas where he helped open the Delmonico Steakhouse. After extensive training from Legasse, D’Angelo and his wife Rebecca opened the very popular Bay St. Louis eatery Bay City Grill. The Grill was yet another victim of Katrina’s wrath.

Together they have brought the Legasse empire to the ravaged Mississippi Gulf Coast and two years after its opening reservations are still a little hard to come by. A good sign for Team Legasse and the Gulf Coast as well.
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