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Eric Ripert

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  1. I really do not like white truffle oil; it is totally artificially fabricated and doesn't taste or smell natural. I do not serve Chilean Sea Bass because it is on the verge of being extinct ( I still think it tastes very good when well prepared). Except a few other items, I am open to experiment with anything. Usually, I do not follow trends and I do not keep a close eye on what our competition does. I like all kinds of cuisine when prepared with intelligence and talent. I like when the Chef tries to create while still respecting the identity of the products and tries to find a certain harmony of flavors and texture. I have recently seen some very wierd combinations and it is ridiculous most of the time because they lack talent. The good news is that those who torture our pallate for the heck of it, won't last.
  2. I had a great time cooking with Charlie Trotter.... It is very important for the Chefs to interact between them. We always give and take in those events. I always see new ingredients, learn new techniques and even hear good gossip. It's a good promotiuon for new potential clientele. We always eat and drink well. It is important to do those events, but I always pace myself; my real priority is to take care of Le Bernardin. In January, I'll do something with Commander's Palace at Le Bernardin, also one event in Florida with Rocco di Spirito. In February, we will host an event for the (newly formed) Jean Louis Palladin Foundation with French Chefs (only women Chefs).
  3. France (especially at the beginning of the 20th century) was very influential in the world for its food, perfumes and fashion. Escoffier was exported to the Savoy in London. In Russia the Tzar had only French Chefs etc....Maxims had a large rich American clientele, La Tour d'Argent as well.... France is really obsessed with food and it is its first exported specialty; it's a cultural fact. Even today I think France is one of the most influential players. French cuisine is a good cuisine with real techniques and real quality ingredients. The British and Americans have great Rock and Roll (The French suck). But in food, France still influences a lot of people. I do not think the visit of those Chefs in 1939 influenced the cuisine of America at the time. Later Julia Child did a tremendous job promoting it.
  4. We're getting better! I think you are right...even 6 or 7 years ago, our waiters were a bit cold. It was unconscious on our part, but a fact. In France, the atmosphere in luxury restaurants is often very cold. We trained our waiters to become friendlier and to interact more with the customers. We constantly work at making the room warmer. We believe we have great food, a beautiful room and technically very good waiters...now if on top of this, if they were also friendly (but not too much), we will be winners!
  5. For special occasions, we have the Brittany Blue Lobster imported from Browne Trading, our fish purveyor. They cost a fortune. They are very full inside and a 1 1/2 pound lobster gives you a lot of meat. They are very tasty, the flesh tastes very much like a refined shrimp (like the ones from Santa Barbara) mixed with peekytoe crab and langoustine. American and Canadian lobsters are less flavorful. I do not know the Scottish variety. Spiny lobsters in the Caribbean are (it's personal) tasteless; the ones in the mediteranean and Brittany are very tasty, but they are also super expensive. New Zealand spiny lobsters are very good. The flesh of the spiny lobsters or langouste (except the Caribbean) are more delicate than the regular lobster. The langouste must be cooked at the last minute if you like the flesh undercooked because it turns black very fast when not served well done.
  6. I direct a team of 40 in the kitchen and we can seat 90 in once shot in the main dining room, as well as 90 in the private dining room. If I cook for (let's say) 15 people, I cannot see the food for the other 75. My job as a Chef is to mentor my team, create, and control the quality of the food for everybody. This is what I mean when I say, I cook less. On the weekends, however, I cook at home very often and I take great pleasure in doing so...
  7. Travelling is great! I always get very inspired by my trips. I try not to leave for too long, but still visit the country thoroughly. Sometimes what I see takes months of "digestion" before I use it in the kitchen. I like to take my time...but for sure whatever I learn outside the restaurant comes back in one way or another. So, yes, travelling influences the way I create.
  8. Alain Ducasse is the perfectionist and the most classic of the three. His cooking is also the most precise. Alain Passard is the most daring, most creative and most artistic. I find his cooking very exciting and adventurous. Guy Savoy cooks, "the terrior" the best. His cooking is very refined, but a bit more rustic than the others. Guy is also very inspired by his native region. The three of them have definitely a very different style, but they have so much in common, especially the fact that they are amazingly talented Chefs and their food is absolutely inspiring and magnificent.
  9. Gilbert was an amazinly talented Chef, a great business man with a very charismatic personality, very funny and generous. He loved women, good food, good wines...I am tempted to say he was very French?! We became very good friends rapidly. Before he hired me, I went on vacation in Italy and Spain and he asked me if I would show him Barcelona, Madrid and San Sebastian. He joined me in Barcelona....what an exhausting and fun vacation! Once I started at Le Bernardin, we already had created a relationship.
  10. I learned meat preparation in 1982 at La Tour d'Argent; probably the most traditional restaurant in Paris. I was in charge of cooking all the ducks in the restaurant (it was the signature dish of the restaurant). Later, I was sous chef to Jean Louis Palladin at the Watergate in Washington DC. I was in charge of sauces and the meat station. Jean Louis loved cooking meat and he was one of the best at roasting ducks, squab, foie gras etc.... At Le Bernardin, we dedicate ourselves to fish, but if someone is invited and wants meat, we always accomodate. On the weekend, at home and after a week of cooking and eating fish, I eat meat of course (once a week). I love cooking just about everything. I enjoy cooking poultry or big pieces like leg of lamb, saddles, and sometimes just a grilled T-bone steak.
  11. You have to precook your potatoes and saute the onions before baking the fish on top of them. Then cook it in a shallow cooking vessel with fish stock, or shellfish stock (or even chicken stock)....just enough to cover the garnish.
  12. You find talented Chefs on both sides of the Atlantic; discipline also on both sides. I think American Chefs are more open to developing different businesses at the same time. It's also easier to be a young Chef and be succesful in the states; you have much more freedom to be creative. You do not have to carry centuries of tradition on your shoulders. In the 80's in France, we were educated totally differently than in the U.S. They believed that by humiliating you...you would learn quicker and be stronger. Here, they have the tendency to teach using positive reinforcement. I prefer the methods in the U.S. Chef's have less fear and express themselves (sometimes they should fear expressing themselves), but in general, it is better for creativity.
  13. From a business point of view, wine, aperitif or degestif costs much more than a canape. Also, if I offer it, that means I lose the sale. I usually like a little "je ne sais quoi" in the restaurant before I order and in high end restaurants, I think it is a must. I guess I am luckier than you because I am rarely disappointed (or I have lower expectations). For me, a canape is a tease and I do not expect a signature dish to be a canape. Rather something refreshing, amusing, intriguiging and inexpensive. It is simply a tool to welcome you in a simple way; definitely not something to show off.
  14. For the book, we bought most of the food in local markets or butcher shops and occassionally in fish markets. I find the quality pretty good in general. Le Bernardin ingredients are better because we have long time relationships with our purveyors, farmers, etc... I am sure that if we had spent more time on each trip, we would have found the same quality. Once (only) we visited a supermarket (during the trip) and I was shocked by the mediocrity of everything. We just bought marshmallows and left...If you have bad ingredients in the beginning, even if you are a genious cook, you will have a poor quality dish. It's worth it to take the time to search for the best. Never forget that sometimes beautiful to the eyes, doesn't necessarily mean beautiful to the palate.
  15. When I worked at Bouley, Craig was the Executive Sous Chef for David. In addition to his administrative duties, he was also responsible for the very difficult meat and sauce station. I was a sous chef and mostly in charge of the fish station, where David joined me during the service. I stayed there only 8 months, but had a great relationship with Craig, who's not only a great cook, but also a gentleman.
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