New season of 'Emeril's Florida' features Tampa chef and student

Published Jan. 4, 2014

Emeril Lagasse is back in Florida for round two of his love affair with Sunshine State cuisine.

The second season of Emeril's Florida kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on the Cooking Channel with an episode called "Coming to America."

Among the three featured chefs, all who have moved to Florida from other countries, is BT Nguyen of Restaurant BT in South Tampa. Nguyen has been a stalwart in the Tampa restaurant scene for about 20 years. She left her native Vietnam in 1975, when she was 13. She lived in refugee camps in the Philippines, Thailand and Guam before making her way to Southborough, Mass., and then Tampa, becoming a U.S. citizen in 2012.

Lagasse will also visit the Cress Restaurant in DeLand owned by Hari and Jenneffer Pulapaka. Hari Pulapaka, a native of India, is a James-Beard nominated chef and a mathematics and computer science professor at Stetson University. Jenneffer Pulapaka is a surgeon by day.

The third chef featured in the show is another James Beard nominee, Jose Martinez of Maison Blanche in Longboat Key. Martinez operated Maison Blanche in Paris for 10 years before moving to Sarasota.

Also on the show will be Guillermo Quezada, originally from the Dominican Republic, who represented Leto High in Tampa when he was named the top Florida high school chef in the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association's ProStart 2013 Competition.

The "Coming to America" episode repeats at 9:30 p.m. Monday and 11:30 p.m. Thursday. Look for new shows at the 2:30 p.m. Sunday time slot.

Emeril's Florida, which is sponsored by the restaurant and lodging association and the state tourism promotion agency Visit Florida, is a 13-episode series that highlights the state's cuisine with Lagasse as the host. Besides visiting restaurants and resorts, he will demonstrate recipes using Florida ingredients.