Best Meal of Your Life with Eric Ripert
Superstar chef. Emmy-award winning TV personality. World-renowned cookbook author. Jetsetter correspondent Jennifer V. Cole sat down with the multi-talented Eric Ripert to talk food, travel, pink-sand beaches and crocodiles.
Eric Ripert has always been enamored with fine dining. “Growing up in France, I had a passion for food and restaurants from a very young age,” says the New York-based chef. “When I was behaving or if I had good grades—which was rare—my mother would take me to a fancy restaurant like La Tour d’Argent or Michel Guérard.” At 15, he set off for culinary school in Perpignan, and went on to cook alongside greats such as Joel Robuchon and David Bouley before taking the reins at the three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York, and later Blue in Grand Cayman. As much as food, travel is in his bones—and a major source of inspiration in his cooking (just check out the third season of his TV show Avec Eric, where so far he’s journeyed to Korea and the wilds of Northern Australia). "Seeing the world exposes you to new foods and flavors, and they always influence me when I’m in the kitchen.”
Photo by Daniel Krieger
The Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, in LA, is one of my favorite hotels in the world. I’ve been going there for more than 20 years, and I feel completely at home when I visit. The outside restaurant...the low-lit bar... It’s a place that has a soul, and I’m very bad at recognizing celebrities, so I don’t even know who anyone is.
Best hotel restaurant?
Definitely Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis XV in Monaco. You can’t compete with that. It’s in a beautiful landmark palace, with a gorgeous dining room. And then there's the service. And the rituals. And the quality of the food. When you eat asparagus there, it was cultivated specifically for that day. That’s the way they work. The relationship between the farmers and the chefs is very intimate. The farmer says, ‘Hey, in 10 days I’ll have asparagus.’ And the chefs say, ‘Ok fine. We’ll buy all of it and we’ll put it on a menu.’
How he likes to eat?
“Fine dining is great, but if I'm on vacation or it’s the weekend, I don’t necessarily want it. I love good street food; it’s the culmination of tradition and the essence of a place, and serves as inspiration for more sophisticated cooking. Vietnam has wonderful street food, and there’s a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris called Tan Dinh, which does a wonderful job of elevating classic street food.”
Where to eat in the Caymans?
I'm usually in the kitchen when I'm there, but if I have some free time, I like Calypso Grill. The fish is simply grilled, but it’s local and fresh, and the date pudding is excellent. Or I go to Cracked Conch, a little shack with a small restaurant, where they crack open conch right before your eyes and then fry it. You'll find a lot of conch in Cayman.
World's best beaches?
On Grand Cayman, I love Seven Mile Beach. I don’t know if it’s really seven miles, but it’s fantastic, with white silky sand and turquoise water. On Culebra, just off Puerto Rico, there’s a place called Flamingo Beach, where the sand is a gorgeous pink color. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in the Caribbean.”
Best food markets?
In Melbourne there's the Queen Victoria Market, which is unbelievable. You can smell the herbs and vegetables, the melons, the olives in the brine. Another amazing one is La Boqueria in Barcelona. The size, the quality of the products, the variety, even the address, Las Ramblas, which is a popular avenue in Barcelona—it’s all very special. There's a great spot near the market called Bar Pinotxo, where I like to go for chickpeas and blood sausage.
In Sydney, I found a seafood place called Sepia, which incorporates modern, molecular techniques to elevate basic ingredients. The chef, Martin Benn, uses a Pacojet to make ice cream out of coconut water and Italian meringue. Or he takes the inside of a banana lime, and throws it in liquid nitrogen to completely change the texture and structure—but the flavor remains.
Favorite part of Australia?
When we were taping Avec Eric, I fell in love with the Northern Territory. The tropical weather, the wilderness, the crocodiles everywhere—it was all a surprise. Tasmania was also fantastic. I only knew about the Tasmanian devil from stories as a kid, so I had no idea what to expect. The region is close to the South Pole, so it was cold, basically like going into Norway or Finland, but not so extreme. The landscape is beautiful.