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Philly's Duffy brothers talk about their new Amazon show, 'Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse'

I'm not sure what trials and tribulations Maggie and Bill Duffy's children visited upon their parents growing up. I do know that when it came to food, the Bala Cynwyd family didn't have many worries.

Celebrity chefs Mario Batali, left, and Emeril Lagasse on “Eat the World.”
Celebrity chefs Mario Batali, left, and Emeril Lagasse on “Eat the World.”Read moreAmazon Studios

I'm not sure what trials and tribulations Maggie and Bill Duffy's children visited upon their parents growing up.

I do know that when it came to food, the Bala Cynwyd family didn't have many worries.

From an early age, all four kids - Colleen, Brian, and twins Tim and Mike - knew their way around a ladle, not to mention the larder, latkes, lasagna, linguine, and liverwurst. All three boys went on to pursue careers that melded cooking with TV. (Outlier Colleen is a special-needs teacher.)

Brian, 44, who now has a home of his own in Bala Cynwyd, grew up to become a chef and star of the reality show Bar Rescue, returning Sept. 18 to Spike TV. In October, he's due to open the Flying Fish Crafthouse in Brewerytown, a joint venture with Flying Fish Brewing Co. that'll match courses with brews.

Fraternal twins Mike and Tim, 41, earn their crust in Hollywood making such TV shows as NBC's Michael Bublé Christmas and TruTV's Hardcore Pawn - and now celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse's latest, Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse - under the Ugly Brother Studios banner.

Premiering Friday on Amazon with a six-episode first season, Eat the World will follow the chef as he visits a new country each episode to sample the local cuisine. On the itinerary: China, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Cuba, and South Korea.

Lagasse will take along a different guest chef each time, including Mario Batali (ABC's The Chew), José Andrés (PBS's Made in Spain), and Nancy Silverton (a sometime guest-judge on Fox's Hell's Kitchen), and he'll meet with acclaimed chefs from each home country.

Tim and Mike Duffy spoke about the project in a conference call that also included Brian, who isn't directly involved with the show.

You're publicizing your TV show, but you wanted Brian to join the interview?

Tim: Brian isn't part of the show, but everything food-related that [Mike and I] do lives under the halo of Brian.

Fair enough. It sounds as if cooking is part of the Duffy DNA.

Mike: We grew up with working parents. My mom was a nurse at Bryn Mawr Hospital, and our dad taught physics and chemistry at Archbishop John Carroll [High School] and Roman Catholic [High School]. So we would come home, and we'd just eat junk all afternoon.

When we were like 10, 11, 12 years old, our parents said, "Each of you guys have to cook one meal a week for the family." So that's how we began to learn to cook.

Tim: Yeah, it wasn't like we'd make them grilled cheese. We made real meals. We'd go to the freezer and got the protein, like shrimp. . . .

Mike: And that's where the experimentation began.

Tim: So we learned our cooking from our parents and from Emeril Lagasse. Watching him on TV gave us a lot of inspiration.

Mike: I mean, we grew up watching Emeril. He became the first true celebrity chef when he took over from Julia Child on morning TV, and he was one of the first people on the Food Network.

Right, so you know Emeril has made some really big, huge popular TV shows. How did you get him to come aboard with Ugly Brother Studios?

Tim: We told him we loved the spontaneity and unfiltered quality of Emeril Live and that he hasn't done something that unfiltered in a long time. So we told him, "What if we took that unfiltered Emeril and put him out in the world with some of the world's greatest chefs - who also happen to be his friends?"

Mike: Yeah, so we had to show him that [our] idea is not only worth his time, but that it also would improve his life. That he would go on journeys that could potentially be life-changing for him and that would reconnect him with the roots that inspired his interest in global cuisine.

Tim: And we just hit it off with him. In the first two minutes of talking with Emeril, we really connected with him through our mutual passion for food and for family.

Were there any surprises along the way?

Tim: Emeril had never been to Asia. So we were the ones who took him there for the first time in his life.

We went with Mario Batali, and we had the best soup dumplings we'd ever experienced, in Shanghai. Then we went to Seoul with Danny Bowien [of San Francisco's renowned Mission Chinese Food], where we met one of the world's greatest chefs [Jeong Kwan], who happens to be a Zen Buddhist nun.

It sounds as if these were intimate trips. How big is your crew?

Tim: Oh, we're a skeleton documentary crew. Just us, the camera operators, sound guys, and a few local [production assistants].

You sound like kids in a candy store. It seems the trips were life-changing for you.

Mike: Every time we went out to do a show, we were pinching ourselves, Tim and I, that we got to go to places like Cuba with Emeril Lagasse.

Tim: That's right. One of the greatest experiences of my professional life was when we went to Cuba with Aarón Sánchez [costar of Food Network's Chopped]. Mike directed the episode, and I produced. And we were on this pork farm on the outskirts of Havana, and Emeril had decided he was going to make the farmer his New Orleans dirty rice.

He had told us the night before we might need pork stock, so that's why we went to the farm. And there we were, early in the morning, sourcing some bones to make Emeril Lagasse pork stock.

This show, this job, has just been the perfect merging of two of my greatest passions, cooking and making TV. And we're making TV with one of the best cooks on the planet.