Cuisine as a tourist draw, with help from Emeril - FOX 13 News

Cuisine as a tourist draw, with help from Emeril

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CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse will feature Pinellas County in an upcoming episode of his new Food Channel show, "Emeril's Florida."

"Emeril's Florida is not just about cooking, although cooking is always a part of the show," the chef said Thursday. "It's about what this state has to offer, places it has to offer, besides the great weather."

Lagasse lives in Destin and frequently praises the quality of the state's seafood. He also ranks Florida beef as "among the top five" in the nation.

The famous food master spent this week in Pinellas, visiting several restaurants, art museums and other attractions.

Pinellas tourism officials plan to parlay Lagasse's endorsement into a bigger push promoting local cuisine.

"It can be a niche market but it's not really because everyone on vacation has to eat," Visit St. Pete-Clearwater's David Downing pointed out.

Travel writers and food bloggers will be encouraged the comment on the Pinellas dining scene, and a mobile app already guides visitors to nearby restaurants.

In the past, Pinellas has pushed other attractions beyond its world-class beaches. Birding, sport fishing, the arts and enviro-tourism have already been targeted. Dining is seen as a natural because many of the restaurants are locally owned.

Foodies also take their intake of fuel very seriously. After a lunch on Beach Drive, Brent Bruns said he seeks a total experience "...from service, to when the food arrives, to the quality of the food, taste of the food -- absolutely, the whole experience."

Jim and Grace Waters also dined in downtown and St. Petersburg and appreciate the tourism angle.

"A lot of times when we go out of town and travel we'll actually look for the restaurants first because that's a nice draw," Grace said. "We've actually planned trips up and down the coast, going to certain restaurants."

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