I was highly entertained this week by the news that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO)> has eaten up – literally – Emeril Lagasse.

No, she didn’t go at him with a knife and fork. She did, however, buy his brand and image, adding a second personality – and story – with at least as much power as her own to her brand stable. She’s collected a number of satellites over the last few year, but Emeril is his own planet.

Love her or hate her (I’m not saying what camp I fall into, but if you’re good at reading between the lines, you might be able to guess), you have to give Martha a lot of credit for being pretty darn indefatigable. Not everyone would be able to bounce back from a very public smack-down that wound up smacking one into a federal pen.

Martha has had some rough patches since she got sprung, but her company found itself in the black again in 2007 for the first time since she wound up in the pen. Now, adding another big, bright, shiny planet to her universe could wind up putting her back into the raking-it-in column.

Provided, of course, she and Emeril blend well, story-wise.

What’s that? You say that since they’re both comfortable in the kitchen, they should get along like, well, two peas in cream sauce? If you cook, you know how dangerous it can be to share your kitchen with anyone, even your best friend. If you and your new BFF have strong personalities and equally strong stories, there can be souffles fallin’ all over the place.

You might end up with the most stellar dinner the world has ever seen…or it could all end in tears. And lawyers.

In my David & Goliath post earlier this week, I talked about how both sides of that equation need to know what story to tell to their market, and how important it is for both the big guys and the little guys to be consistent and authentic. In the Martha + Emeril story, this could prove a challenge.

Emeril and Martha both tell consistent stories. In a nutshell: "Kick it up a notch! Pig fat rules!" and "Mine is better."

On the authenticity scale, I give Emeril more points than I do Martha, because her persona and story seem to be more calculatedly crafted. Emeril is no dope, and from the beginning of the rise of his empire he’s worked hard to appear both knowledgeable and approachable. Martha’s iron persona brooks no sweat, minimal exuberance, and very little passion.

I wonder if Martha will be foolish enough to try to manage or recast Emeril’s highly successful formula, or if she’ll be savvy enough to let him continue to tell his own story.

I don’t think Martha’s any kind of fool.

Another BMIK (big man in the kitchen), Anthony Bourdain, weighed in on this topic over at Michael Ruhlman’s blog the other day…and I guess the Food Network has waved a wand and made Ruhlman pull the post. Too bad, because it was one of the funniest – and most laceratingly truthful – stream of consciousness rants I’ve read in a long time.

Bourdain, who is not known for his lukewarm opinions, is no fan of Emeril’s. Or Martha’s. He did express concern for Mr. Lagasse in this equation, though.

So, stay tuned. To the Food Network. If you can stand it. If not, head on over to the Travel Channel for No Reservations. One of the best shows on television, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

Stories from the Kitchen
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