Emeril Lagasse is an award-winning chef who owns several restaurants, has written over 10 cookbooks and has appeared on dozens of cooking-related TV shows. Like Cher and Madonna, he’s famous enough to only go by one name. Despite this success, most people who know the name Emeril immediately associate it with one word: “BAM!” The chef’s signature line has become an indelible part of his image.
Growing Up Cooking
Although Lagasse is famous for his Creole and New Orleans cooking, he was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, to a French-Canadian family. As a teenager, he worked in a Portuguese bakery and discovered he enjoyed cooking. He attended Johnson & Wales University, a Rhode Island school famous for its culinary arts college.
After graduating, he became an executive chef at the Hyannis Resort in 1979. In 1982, he succeeded Paul Prudhomme as executive chef of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.
It was here that Lagasse perfected the style he calls “New New Orleans,” which blends traditional Creole ingredients with Asian, Portuguese and Southwestern influences. After seven years at Commander’s Palace, he left to open his first restaurant.
Success as a Chef
Since then, he has opened several restaurants in Louisiana and Las Vegas. He is the winner of the James Beard Regional Cooking Award, the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Wine Spectator Grand Award.
Emeril rose to fame after appearing on many TV shows. He was one of 16 chefs selected for the Julia Child program Cooking with Master Chefs in 1993. In 1997, he starred in his own show, Emeril Live, which won a Cable Ace Award. He also hosted Essence of Emeril, a TV show named after the custom spice blend he created and sells.
Lagasse has hosted Emeril Green, which focused on using local, organic ingredients; the Emeril Lagasse Show; Emeril’s Table; and Emeril’s Florida. He has been a judge on Top Chef and On the Menu.
His popularity rested on his simple, flavorful recipes and his vibrant personality. Lagasse would strut around the set, clearly excited to be showing people how to cook. He would frequently interject his actions with a series of unique phrases.
Audience members and viewers were charmed by lines like, “We’re going to take it up a notch” or “Aw, yeah, babe,” which he said while adding some spices to a recipe. He urged people to “feel the love” when cooking, and he would frequently tell viewers to use lard without fear because “Pork fat rules.”
Of all his phrases, however, “BAM!” became the most popular. Used to punctuate everything from a stir to an addition of spices, it became his signature word.
How BAM! Was Born
In a 2015 interview with Bon Appetit, Lagasse explained how the catchphrase started. At the time, he was hosting a cooking show while running his restaurants and shooting up to eight shows a day. After cooking for all those shows, the camera and restaurant crews would eat the leftover food.
Lagasse noticed that devouring all that food at lunchtime made the crew sleepy in the afternoon. He tried yelling other words, but nothing seemed to inspire them. One day, while getting ready to start filming, Lagasse yelled, “BAM!”
It became a signature phrase almost immediately. The workers loved it, and it became part of his on-air patter.
Lagasse told the magazine, “I wouldn’t change it. I’ve tried it, believe me. I’ve tried ‘pow.’ I’ve tried all kinds of things. BAM is just kinda me.”
Huge Marketing Potential
Lagasse correctly saw huge marketing potential in the word.
In 2000, he registered the trademark for BAM! under the name of his culinary company Emeril’s Food of Love LLC. The trademark allows him to use the famous word on his popular lines of foods, spices and cookware.
Related: Our guide to trademarking a phrase.
Soligen Knives Lawsuit
Although he has not had any major lawsuits related to the use of BAM!, the chef was sued for trademark violation.
In 2012, the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid, a trade association, sued Emeril and Martha Stewart, whose company owns Emeril’s media and cookware lines. The lawsuit alleged that Stewart and Lagasse were selling knives they fraudulently called Solingen knives on the Home Shopping Network (HSN).
The Solingen region is famous for the high quality of its cutlery, and Solingen is known as “Cutlery City.” Only the German trade association holds the license to the Solingen trademark.
As the lawsuit noted, only knives made under that trademark can legally carry the name Solingen. Products that carry the trademark must be made in Solingen and meet certain quality standards.
The lawsuit charged trademark infringement. It also charged that the knives being sold on HSN were made in China, not Germany, and were of inferior quality. Customers who bought them complained that they broke easily and that the words “Made in China” were clearly visible on the knives.
A Strong Statement
The lawsuit was settled in 2014. As part of the settlement, Stewart, Lagasse and HSN were permanently barred from using the Solingen name on any merchandise. In a press release, a lawyer for the German trade association said, “We hope this settlement sends a strong statement to anyone attempting to profit from improperly certifying products with the Solingen mark.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lagasse’s restaurants hard, the chef remains jovial. He continues to appear on TV and live shows, where he inspires home chefs to “take it up a notch” with the spices. In 2019, he opened Emeril’s Bistro 1396 on Carnival Cruise Lines. In 2021, he was a guest judge on Gordon Ramsey’s MasterChef: Legends. As he told Bon Appetit, “We just get up every day and try a little bit harder than we did yesterday.”