Don't panic, Eric Ripert's Grand Cayman restaurant Blue is safe from the carnage of last week in which the chef made back-to-back announcements that he was cutting ties with both his Washington, DC, and Philadelphia-based Ritz-Carlton restaurants. Instead, Ripert plans to focus on "a project in New York affiliated with his famed Le Bernardin." Blue — which Ripert has been known to call "Le Bernardin by the beach" — will be his last remaining Ritz-Carlton restaurant thanks to a long-term contract (around five more years).
In the following Q&A, Ripert talks a little bit about the decision to leave Westend Bistro and 10 Arts for this mysterious new New York-based project. He also stays coy about that "difficult to explain" project because nothing has been signed and "I don't want people to have the impression that I'm opening more Le Bernardin."
Given the news last week that you're parting ways with Westend Bistro and 10 Arts, what about your partnership with Blue?
Nothing will change for Blue because it's a very long-term contract that we have there. I'll be there in January, obviously, for the [Cayman] Cookout. The relationship with Blue doesn't change at all, it's the same. What I did is I waited for the contracts for Washington and Philadelphia to end, to not renew the contracts. Like I mentioned previously to some journalists, it was a very amicable way of leaving. I left on great terms with them. Actually, my contract in Philadelphia ended in July, so I am still there since July just to finish the year. So that means it's amicable.
And I saw you told journalists last week you have a new project in New York that's taking up your time.
It's something we cannot discuss yet because obviously it's not signed. I don't want to jinx it. But we are close to talk about a project, yes.
Can I ask if it's a new restaurant?
No. It's a little bit complex and it's related to Le Bernardin, but it's not... It's difficult to explain what it is until it comes out because I don't want people to have the impression that I'm opening more Le Bernardin. I don't want to say it's an extension because people are a little bit cynical. I don't want to say it's not an extension. So I have to wait. It's a matter of a few weeks, hopefully.
Do you think you'll eventually get back into DC and Philly?
I'm not sure about that, but I'm not saying no. It's certainly not closing the door to Ritz-Carlton as well. I'm very good friends at the corporate level and at the level of the hotel and so on. I'm not saying I won't do anything in the future again if I have the right opportunity. It's just now I have decided to focus on what we are doing and focus on Le Bernardin as well, which is very important to me.
I'm sorry, I wish I could give you more, but I just can't.
How long have you been planning to leave Westend Bistro and 10 Arts?
We discussed with the top management in March of this year, so we knew I would make an announcement now. And we waited for the end of the year. What we did, we waited for myself to be available to go talk to the staff first. Then after that we chat with media. It's a decision that was known and allowed us to create a good transition and to have the Ritz-Carlton strong to move on.
When does your contract with Blue end?
I have about at least five more years or something like that. I don't have the contract in front of me, but it's long, long term. And, again, for Washington and Philly, we didn't break the contract. We waited for the contract to expire, which is really different, obviously. I have no intention to break any contract.