Emeril Lagasse appeared at this year's BookExpo America to launch his upcoming book, Essential Emeril: Favorite Recipes and Hard-Won Wisdom from My Life in the Kitchen (Oxmoor House, Oct.). which the author, restauranteur, and TV personality has described as his "ultimate" recipe collection. He talked to PW about capturing a career in 100 recipes, cooking for Julia Child, and what one piece of advice he has for those learning to cook.

Why did you decide that now was the time for such a definitive work?

Well, last year we started planning what we were going to do for the 25th anniversary of my first restaurant, Emeril’s. Through that process I began reflecting about my career and thinking about where I started and what I’ve learned along the way. It just seemed like 2015 was aligning to be about sharing some of my discoveries and lessons in food. Every day I try to be a little better, whether that’s in or out of the kitchen, so sometimes going back to your roots is the best first step for progress.

How did you come to the recipes included in Essential Emeril?

This was actually a really hard process for me. I’d be writing the recipe and talking about the story and why it’s special to me, and my team would ask, "OK but is it special enough to make the cut?" In the beginning, it was a frustrating process and I thought they just didn’t get it. Problem was, by the end of my first list it was about 400 recipes. It was really hard to pick out just 100.

Much of the book seems to be about education, and constantly learning. You describe Julia Child as an early influence. How did you come to cook for her, and what was that like?

I’ve been really blessed to have met and learned from so many culinary icons, Julia being one. I first met her at the Parker house in Boston where she came in one night unannounced and asked me to cook for her. Talk about pressure! That night began a great friendship and I was able to cook for her again in New Orleans years later. One of my favorite aspects of this book is being able to share some of the stories, lessons and memories of so many of my mentors, teachers, friends, and colleagues, because that’s what it’s all about.

Is there one piece of advice you have for home cooks who are just starting out?

Don’t get discouraged. I always tell people, as long as you learn something in the process, it’s not always about the end result. Cooking should be fun! So don’t give up, just try again and make sure you experience the process. Oh, and taste the food as you go.