New Orleans and Emeril Lagasse are a match made in food heaven. The chef and restaurateur's reach can be found across the city through his products and four New Orleans restaurants. The commitment to fresh, flavorful food culminates in the group's pasta program helmed by their very own Pasta Lady.
Dana Gaudé is Emeril's Restaurants' inaugural Pasta Lady. On average, she cranks out 400 pounds of homemade pasta per week, and in especially busy times, can produce upwards of 150 pounds a day. How did she get here? "It kind of just happened," Gaudé says.
After graduating from Louisiana State University, Gaudé moved to New Orleans and worked for Dan Esses's Good Eggs. After moving on to another opportunity, Emeril's Restaurants reached out and asked her if she would be interested in becoming their full time Pasta Lady, a necessary position to handle the sheer amount of pasta needed across their properties. She officially started in January 2018.
"I didn't have any training, but I have a desire and a good attitude. I was always willing and happy to be there, which is partly the reason I think they thought of me."
Standing at 4 feet 11 & ¾ inches, Gaudé uses a step stool while operating Stella, her red Arcobaleno pasta making machine. (It costs more than a car.) The ingredients are simple: flour and water, and liquids are added if the pasta is flavored.
"I was definitely given recipes in the beginning," she explains. "But since then, I've gotten to develop my own recipes. I can now say 'Hey, I want to make this basil pasta,' or 'I want to make a lemon pepper pasta.' I make the recipes on my own, test it, and walk around the office asking anyone to test my noodles."
She successfully created a gluten-free pasta, comprised from rice and corn flour, Xanthan gum (a thickening agent), and salt. "Most of the her pastas don't take any salt. I work with such exceptional chefs that by giving them a simple base, they can make anything taste amazing. It's just giving them a good product to grow from and build a dish from."
Working with talented chefs is one of the perks of the job. "Whenever they're doing their inventory, they'll tell me how much they need," she says. "It's a balance of staying a little bit ahead, but also it's as fresh as it can be. Sometimes I'm bringing in pasta that is still hot." Gaudé also delivers the pasta around town.
Pasta is made in 5-pound increments at the corporate office kitchen, a much quieter environment than a restaurant kitchen. While making her batches, which typically takes 15 minutes, you can find the one-woman show listening to audiobooks or podcasts, especially anything wedding related as she's getting married in 2020. She and her fiancé met through work: He was the sous chef at NOLA Restaurant (now the executive chef at Port Orleans) and Gaudé would deliver pasta to the restaurant.
Her job description also includes training chefs on the pasta-making process. Recently, the executive chef of Emeril's Las Vegas restaurants traveled to New Orleans to learn Gaudé's ways. "It was fun to show an executive chef. It made me feel like I'm really doing this, I'm owning this, I'm running this program. They trust me to train someone who is a big deal. I really appreciated it."
Gaudé says she feels blessed by the opportunity and growth she's already experienced. "I would love to see the program continue along the path we are on...I see it sticking around for a very long time. Nothing beats fresh pasta!"
This article appeared in the Fall 2019 Issue of Adore Magazine.