The long line kept moving as the hungry crowd inside Grand Casino's Events Center sampled all kinds of scruptious food. Everything from seafood gumbo to white chocolate bread pudding was on the menu.
"26 restaurants from the Gulf Coast have come out as far as Indianola, Mississippi to be here, to celebrate, to try to, try to raise this money to get this performing arts center built - and we're gonna do it," says the evening's host, Emeril Lagasse .
As fast and hot as the bidding went during the live auction, Lagasse may just be right. One man paid $15,000 for dinner at the famous chef's New Orleans home in December, a $2,500 value. The money goes to the Lynn Meadows performing arts building fund, which so far stands at $600,000.
When Lagasse finally got down to business, he whipped up the first course, a tasty dish called shrimp ceviche.
"The citrus juice is actually gonna cook the shrimp or anything you're gonna do ceviche style."
Lagasse has lots of fans, people who tune into his cooking show.
"My mother is 84, she watches him at least 6 hours a day," says one woman.
Her mother doesn't deny being an Emeril fan.
"Oh, I've watched him so long I feel I know him," she says.
Others just want to get their Emeril cookbooks signed. He was happy to oblige, knowing that these people are helping him help one of the top 25 children's learning centers in the country.
"I've got a feeling when we can achieve this goal: get this performing arts center with the kitchen, with the restaurant, with the potential of having cooking education, hospitality education as part of the center. I think it's gonna be in the top 10 when it's all said and done, right here on the Gulf Coast."
Lagasse says he is designing the kitchen that will be included in the performing arts center, and he will make guest chef appearances.