HOT DISH: Country Music and Emeril

Alison Releases a Hot New Album ... and Other News From Nashville

(CMT Hot Dish is a weekly feature written by former Country Music magazine columnist Hazel Smith. Author of the cookbook, Hazel’s Hot Dish: Cookin’ With Country Stars, she also shares her recipes at

If you ever wondered how country music was introduced to the Emeril Lagasse’s TV show, I can tell you it began when entrepreneur Robert Hicks called me one Friday morning. He asked if I minded cooking for the chef who was coming to Nashville for his Across America special.

I had no idea who Emeril was and had never seen his TV show, but Robert had already convinced his people that I was one of the best cooks in Music City.

Before I could answer, Robert inquired, “What restaurants should Emeril visit?”

We decided on Carl’s Perfect Pig at White Bluff for heavenly ribs, Swett’s on Clifton Avenue for down home cooking, Cock of the Walk on Music Valley Drive for catfish and fried dill pickles and the Wildhorse Saloon for atmosphere.

Robert floored me when he added, “Emeril will be taping you for television.”


“Monday,” he replied.

I stammered, “OK.”

Late in the same day, two sharp gals, Emeril Live executive producer Karen Katz and producer Rochelle Brown, showed up at my house. After talking with me for a while, Rochelle, cell phone in hand, slipped from the room, and I heard her say, “This is going to be great.” During the visit, I convinced the ladies it would be fitting and proper to have a three-piece band — with my son, Billy, and his picking pals playing a little bluegrass on the back porch.

I usually only tune into country music on TV, but I watched Emeril Live throughout the weekend. That Monday morning, my house was filled with all it takes to shoot an hour-long show — cameras, crew, producers, director, makeup and hair people, bodyguard, etc. My busy kitchen was an aroma of Southern cooked goodies, including the World’s Best Banana Pudding.

They filmed me cooking and filmed Emeril and the rest of us as we smacked our mouths on chicken and dressing, giblet gravy, collard greens, stewed tomatoes, corn casserole, chutney, fried cornbread, sweet iced tea, coffee and pudding.

Later, I got word Emeril wanted to fly me first-class to New York City for a taping of Emeril Live, put me up in a fine hotel and have a limo at my disposal. Whee!

The jazzy, five-piece Emeril Live band regularly perform on the show, but he and I thought it would be cool to have country music on the show with country me.

“Can you get someone to come up here and perform?” Katz asked.

“Oh, yeah,” I replied.

I got in touch with Brad Paisley. It was Brad, his band and yours truly who actually took country music to Emeril’s show. That show aired for the umpteenth time recently when Emeril celebrated country music for an entire week. Others country acts appearing with Emeril were the great Willie Nelson, Trace Adkins, Tracy Byrd, Carolyn Dawn Johnson and a bevy of others. Emeril asked CDJ is she knew his friend, Hazel Smith, and she allowed she did.

Bluegrass Sells
According to Rounder Records, advance orders of 600,000 have been placed for the new Alison Krauss album, Lonely Runs Both Ways. It’s been three years since Krauss released new music, and the world wants to hear what she has to sing.

Some Beach
A 15-year-old at a Middle Tennessee high school was suspended from school for a week for saying the bad word that starts with a “B” and rhymes with “witch.” Her first day back at school after suspension, the teen was singing Blake Shelton’s latest Top 10 hit, “Some Beach.”

A teacher heard her and sent the girl home again. The parents intervened. The school balked. The parents informed Shelton’s label, Warner Bros. Nashville. Record company execs intervened — and the girl is back in school. No details revealed.

One Liners
The No. 1 song in America, Gary Allan’s “Nothing On but the Radio” is welcome news.

It is not necessary for record labels to inform me in the first paragraph of a new bio where an artist attended college because all-time greats like Hank Williams, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Lefty Frizzell, Faron Young, Harlan Howard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Cochran and Patsy Cline never went to college — and it didn’t hurt their picking, singing or songwriting.

Smart guys and gals like Deborah Hunnicut of Indianapolis read my recipes at and used my dressing recipe for her Thanksgiving dinner.

LeAnn Rimes joins JoJo, Ruben Studdard, Vanessa Williams and hosts Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw for the Christmas in Washington concert airing Dec. 15 on Turner Network Television (TNT).

My niece, Lisa, is dying with jealousy because I have an advance copy of five self-penned songs from Kenny Chesney’s forthcoming CD.

Yep, Reba will tour again next year — beginning in February.

Of course, good guys, Charlie Daniels, Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, Lonestar and Buddy Jewell sold out the Christmas for Kids benefit show at the Ryman Auditorium.

Porter Wagoner, who has had a reputation of turning on the ladies, turned on the million-plus Christmas lights that beautify the Gaylord Opryland Resort — also known as the Opryland Hotel.

My friend, the great Willie Nelson, joins one of his close friends for CMT Homecoming: President Carter in Plains debuting Dec. 4.

I’m about to bust a gut, I’m so happy that Josh Turner’s wonderful album Long Black Train has been certified platinum — and deserves to be.

A local sports reporter says Trace Adkins is NASCAR’s favorite to sing the national anthem.

Some 200,000 red and green, snow-covered copies of Big & Rich’s Horse of a Different Color CD could become a collector’s item.

I wonder how Sharon White will manage to stand being married to bluegrass Dr. Ricky Skaggs when he receives an honorary doctor of humanities degree from Eastern Kentucky University on May 8.

SHeDAISY were in their hometown of Salt Lake City over the Thanksgiving holiday and performed the national anthem at Friday’s (Nov. 26) game between the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets.

See the new Hot Dish recipe of the week: Pecan Pie.