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Eric Ripert Doesn't Follow Food Trends

The iconic chef at New York's Le Bernardin says the best dishes are tied to memories

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To anyone who claims that fine dining is dying: Eric Ripert would like a word. The acclaimed chef at New York's Le Bernardin and author of the new memoir 32 Yolks has dedicated his career to high-end culinary experiences, and witnessed the power of a fantastic meal, first hand. This week, Ripert drops by the Eater Upsell studios to discuss his quintessential New York meal (it costs $17), guest starring on Parts Unknown, and the restaurant dress code, which he wholeheartedly defends.

As always, you can get the Eater Upsell on iTunes, listen on Soundcloud, subscribe via RSS, or search your favorite podcast app. You can also get the entire archive of episodes — plus transcripts, behind-the-scenes photos, and more — right here on Eater.

Read the transcript of the Eater Upsell Season 2, Episode 6: Eric Ripert, edited to just the main interview, here. For more from Greg and Helen on the dilemma that is explaining their jobs to people (NB to friends, family, bank tellers, inquisitive strangers: they are not restaurant critics ) you’ll have to listen to the episode in its entirety, above.

Morabito: I’ve been following your career for a while now, and I’d say you’re a fairly famous chef. I think people know who you are and know what you do. But with this book, you’ve opened up a side that a lot of people didn’t know about you. I didn’t know about your past, your upbringing. Somebody asked what the book was like, and I said it’s almost like a chef version of The 400 Blows, that movie.

Eric: Ah, yes. That’s a good comparison.

Greg: That’s what it reminded me of. I’m just kind of curious, to start things off: Why at this point in your career did you want to tell that story about your life? Because I don’t think a lot of people knew about this part of your background, your past.

Eric: No, I mean you usually don’t go to parties and start to talk about your childhood, and the drama of the divorce of your parents, and everything else. But Random House approached me actually eight years ago.

Greg: Eight years ago? Wow.

Eric: And it took me about two to three years to really say yes to writing a memoir. I thought I had no story that was inspiring. And I didn’t want to write a memoir just about myself, to read about myself. I wanted to have something inspirational. But after two years, I wrote on a piece of paper the chronology of my life, and what happened in my life, and I said, "Oh! I have a good story that is interesting for many people." Obviously in my industry, but other people will be very interested in the memoir, hopefully. And that’s why I did it.

Greg: Everyone grows up only understanding their own upbringing, as a young child. When you entered the world of restaurants and became a boss and a chef, did you ever look back and realize that your upbringing was very different from a lot of other people in your industry?

"Up until culinary school, I thought that every child in the world had an appetizer, main course, cheese, and dessert, for lunch and dinner, at home. On different china, with a different tablecloth."

Eric: I realized my upbringing was different when I was in boarding school, in culinary school. Because up until then I thought that every child in the world had an appetizer, main course, cheese, and dessert for lunch and dinner, at home. On different china, with a different tablecloth. Then I realized that was really something exceptional that my mother was creating, because she wanted to have a special experience for her son. It was the best part of my day, obviously, because the rest was pretty tough at home.

Greg: Yeah. You are very candid in this book about your stepfather, who is named Hugo in this book.

Eric: In the book we call him Hugo.

Greg: And the very sad death of your biological father, when you were eleven. It’s very candid. And one thing I immediately took to, reading this book, is that on almost every page or every other page, there is something about food.

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: I think that you write about it in a way that a lot of people don’t write about food, which is this sort of emotional connection to food. What that experience is like.

Eric: Yes. It was a connection because I was exposed to soul food with my two grandmothers. One from Italy, one from Provence. My aunts were cooking their food, soul food from the south of France. And my mother was cooking this very refined food inspired by the chefs that created nouvelle cuisine. And each time that I would eat the food — either way, soul food or refined food — it was an emotional relationship to the person who cooked it. It was also the fact that we were at the table, sharing a meal and exchanging ideas and having pleasure and fun and discussions — that was something that was emotional, something that I was looking to join, right? So yes, I have those amazing memories of food. And there’s always something emotional about it. It’s not only about the flavor itself.

Greg: I’m gonna do what might be an embarrassing thing. There’s one passage I wanted to read to our listeners that really stuck with me from your book. You were writing about an early mentor, Jacques.

Eric: Oh yes.

Greg: So as a boy, you would follow him to the kitchen and watch him and learn a lot.

Eric: Yes.

Greg: And there was the moment where you tell him you want to be a chef.

Eric: Yes.

Greg: And you taste caviar for the first time. So, I’m going to read this —

Eric: Sure.

Greg: You say, "The memory of trying a food for the first time imprints itself into the flavor. A happy memory can make a food delectable or make you crave it, savor it. And when it is gone, dream about the next time you will have it. Every time I have caviar, I am a teenage boy in Andorra, hanging out with my friend Jacques, eating spoonful after spoonful of beluga, downing it like ice cream." That is such a wonderful memory right there. The celebration, and this sort of awakening — back to what we were talking about, about emotional memories tied with food. What you do now at Le Bernardin, when you’re building a menu, how much does that factor into it? Do you think about emotions? Do you think about the way that flavors bring things up?

Eric: Everything we create at Le Bernardin has a history. Either it’s an influence from the past — from my childhood, or my teenage years, or my years growing in the kitchens in Paris — or today, because I live in New York, and I have the luxury to be able to travel or to visit some of the areas of the city. When we create dishes, obviously flavors are different from different cultures. Asia and Europe and South America and North America and so on. But it always has, in my mind, a memory attached to it. It’s never just a flavor with no emotional story. I always remember with who I was, what I was doing in the market in Vietnam — it’s related to my grandmothers, or to spend the Sunday with the family, at those long tables with 20 people eating and laughing and drinking. So it’s always related to some memories like that.

Greg: How do you go about the process of creating a new dish on the menu?

Eric: Well, at Le Bernardin we have the mantra that says, "The fish is the star of the plate." Which is essential for us to have, because since we are a seafood restaurant, if we care about presentation first — if we care about new techniques and we don’t care about the fish first — the dish will not be as powerful to elevate the qualities of the fish. So that dictates our style. But then we have a lot of freedom to bring flavors, ingredients, techniques, and again, keeping in mind our mantra, to come up with those recipes. We work in collaboration, the sous chefs and myself. Sous chefs are basically the top of the kitchen. It’s about six to eight guys, depending on the year. And we create dishes. Sometimes it’s memories from my sous chefs as well. Like, "Listen, I was doing that when I was a child." Or, "I ate that a long time ago with my family. What do you think?" And then I’m like, "Oh it reminds me of something." So it’s always a story attached to what we do.

Greg: In 32 Yolks, you write a lot about your experience in Europe, going through the brigade system, working in some very good restaurants, and coming to New York. As someone who covers New York restaurants, I’m just very curious: When you landed here in New York, what was the stuff you had to try? What was the stuff that blew you away?

Eric: First of all I came to Washington D.C. in ‘89.

Greg: Right.

Eric: The first time I came to New York was in 1986 as a tourist, and David Bouley was working at Vienna 79 as a consultant. It was just before they opened Montrachet, and I was — you’re going to find this very strange. I was very happy, of course, but puzzled by the fact that the bread in New York was served warm. Because in Europe we serve bread cold. And I love [warm bread] so much. I would stuff my face with warm bread in New York. So I don’t have those clichés, like a hot dog or —

Greg: Pastrami sandwich.

"I was very happy, of course, but puzzled by the fact that the bread in New York was served warm. Because in Europe we serve bread cold. And I love warm bread so much. I would stuff my face with warm bread in New York."

Eric: Pastrami sandwich. To me, it’s the bread. And right away, David Bouley took me some places, I went to Union Square. I have those amazing memories of New York, which are not your usual memories from a tourist’s point of view, or a newcomer to the city. But if I have to say one dish that really represents my beginning in New York City it was in Union Square, the feijoada on the weekend at Coffee Shop.

Greg: Oh wow, Coffee Shop! Still going strong, Coffee Shop.

Eric: They go strong!

Greg: Yeah, wow!

Eric: And they still serve the feijoada for $17! I think it’s crazy prices, it’s so cheap.

Greg: So funny, I’ve never thought to order that there. I never even knew they actually had it on the menu.

Eric: Oh I do. I go there just for that.

Greg: Wow.

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: So you joined the Le Bernardin team in 1991.

Eric: Yes.

Greg: And this was right after the original chef had passed away. Or you got there —

Eric: Well I was in Washington D.C. in 1989. I came to New York in ’90. I worked with David Bouley for a brief time. Then in ’91 I joined Le Bernardin, and Gilbert Le Coze, the owner and chef, passed away in ’94, three years later. So I was with him, working in collaboration with him, for three years.

Greg: So you had some very big shoes to — a very big mantle to take over.

Eric: Yes. The beauty is that when you are young, you have no idea. I was very naïve and when he passed away it was very sad and very emotional. But I just focused on keeping the kitchen at the same level. Creating new dishes, and taking care of the team, and bringing Le Bernardin to the next level. That was my only focus, and therefore I was there 18 hours a day, six days a week. That was my life. And I didn’t think any other way.

Greg: Le Bernardin is, I think, one of New York’s favorite restaurants. If you look at it over the course of its decades in business —

Eric: Thank you.

Greg: I remember reading in old Zagat guides that it was always Le Bernardin, Union Square Cafe, and —

Eric: Ah yes.

Greg: People still have this connection to that restaurant. I was thinking about other chefs that have been so synonymous with one establishment. I think that the only one that pops off the top of my mind is Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar and Grill.

Eric: Yes, you’re right. Iconic chef, iconic restaurant.

Greg: You have the wine bar, and you have some other affiliated projects. But you are Le Bernardin. You are there with your team and you guys are constantly pushing it forward.

Eric: That’s funny that you say I am Le Bernardin. Many times people on the street call me, "Oh, Mr. Bernardin!"

Greg: Really?

Eric: Yes, it makes me laugh.

Greg: How, over the decades, do you think that restaurant has changed with you at the head?

Eric: We have changed a lot. If you take a snapshot today and you look at it in six months, things change. Le Bernardin has changed tremendously. First of all, it was an iconic restaurant from the 80s. A French restaurant from the 80s with formal service. Borderline stiff. With a style that was very influenced by Gilbert Le Coze. When Gilbert Le Coze passed away, obviously I brought my own style, much more inspired by the Mediterranean at the time, and then later on by Asia when I discovered Japan and those countries. The service got much more relaxed and interactive. And then we realized, eight years ago, that the food changed constantly, the service had changed and evolved, but the décor was stuck in the past. So we decided to redo the décor of Le Bernardin to have a different energy and dynamic. Something that would be timeless, in a sense. And that would attract a young crowd, that would make them happy, and at the same time wouldn’t infuriate the loyal clients from the beginning.

Greg: I think you guys did a wonderful job of that.

Eric: Thank you.

Greg: The front room, the lounge, is a very different space than the back room.

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: Reading your book, I was thinking about all these things you loved growing up. You talk about chocolate mousse —

Eric: Oh my god, yes.

Greg: Dishes like that. Kind of hearty, comfort food dishes. You could describe the dining room at Le Bernardin and the food there as many things, but I don’t know if I would call it comfort food, you know? But in the lounge, you have some things that are a little bit more—

Eric: First of all, you don’t need a jacket, you don’t need a reservation. For lunch we use the lounge to do something actually good. We have a menu that has an appetizer, main course, and desert for $45. Same portion as the main dining rooms. Recipes that are similar. And out of the $45, five dollars go to City Harvest. So we use the lounge at lunch to bring visibility to City Harvest, and to make the locals happy in the buildings. And then at night, we have different clientele that comes and wants to have some drinks and pick some food — I wouldn’t say "casual" but more — yeah, maybe "casual atmosphere" than the main dining room. And then, of course, in the dining room you need a jacket.

Greg: It’s a civilized experience. It’s a nice space.

Eric: Look, if the ladies are putting in a lot of effort to look good and dress well, men should, at least by respect for the ladies, have a jacket. Because a lot of people come to celebrate. A lot of people have saved money to have an experience, and it’s part of the experience.

Greg: How much do you pay attention to what else is going in the fine dining world right now? It’s changing all the time. Do you go out? Do you read about a restaurant and check it out?

"The trends do not affect me that much. I think it’s good, because if you follow the trends, every six months you change your style and you have no soul. Your food has no soul. You have to be yourself, really."

Eric: I read, I go out. However, the trends do not affect me that much. And I’m slow to adopt what is good in the trends, and incorporate it. I think it’s good, because if you follow the trends, every six months you change your style and you have no soul. Your food has no soul. You have to be yourself, really. So therefore, when molecular cuisine came [into fashion], it took me maybe a year or two to start to incorporate some of the techniques. Again, to elevate the fish.

Greg: Were you a fan of that cuisine? Had you been to El Bulli or any place like that?

Eric: I went to El Bulli thinking I would hate it. And I was like, "Oh, you’re going to have to be open-minded," and you know what? The experience was absolutely amazing. And I left and I was like, it’s not the kind of restaurant where you go every day of your life, because it’s absolutely not what you want to eat. But once every three, four, five years, that experience is very unique. And today we see that more and more. Forget the molecular cuisine — that died, actually, and has been incorporated today into more classic food, bringing some lightness to strong flavors and so on — but people go to restaurants, especially in fine dining, to have a very special experience. It’s not about nourishing yourself anymore, or talking at the table and feeding yourself. It’s about a holistic experience. And we are here for that.

Greg: It’s interesting. That’s something we talk a lot about at Eater, and foodies like to talk about. This idea: Is fine dining dead? Or is it being reinvented? I think one of the best things about New York is that we actually have establishments like Le Bernardin and Per Se and places you can aspire to go to.

Eric: It’s very interesting, the prediction of fine dining dying. It started about eight years ago, ten years ago. And I never understood why people, especially in the media, were saying fine dining was dying, because you couldn’t get a table at Le Bernardin, you couldn’t get a table at Jean-Georges, at Daniel, at Per Se. It was impossible to get a table. And then people were like, "Well, nobody wants to dress anymore." And I said, "Why do they open Prada and Gucci everywhere in the city? The men buy suits, for what?" You don’t go in a Prada suit to work.

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: So anyway, fine dining survived that criticism, or that prediction, and evolved, definitely. Fine dining has evolved like everything else. Everything evolves all the time, especially in New York. It’s a very fast pace, and you always are inspired, and you always move forward. Fine dining reinvented itself a long time ago already, and still reinvents itself every day. And it’s probably one of the most dynamic sides of the industry, where we really, every day, make the effort to think about what we can do to create a special experience. We see that now with Daniel Humm, at Eleven Madison and Cesar Ramirez in Brooklyn. It’s fine dining.

Greg: Right.

Eric: And we see that all over the city. Fine dining is about delivering an experience that will be memorable, and people come for that. We succeed when they leave and they say to us, "This is really what I was looking for, and I will remember it for a long time."

Greg: So during those dark days in 2008 when the economy was going to hell and a lot of restaurants cut back, started serving burgers, chucked their tasting menus. Did you guys —

Eric: We did exactly the opposite. 2008 is the crash in October, I think?

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: So for fine dining restaurants, we are packed anyway until the end of the year. The private rooms are packed, nobody is going to cancel the Christmas party. But 2009, in January, the city shut down. All the restaurants were empty, especially expensive restaurants. So we decided to do many things. First of all, we decided to help the community. And therefore for every client that was coming to Le Bernardin, we were giving one dollar to City Harvest, with a guarantee of a $100,000 donation to them. Saying we were gonna at least clear 100,000 clients, which we did. We exceeded that expectation. We wanted to be visible, so overnight we doubled the budgets of public relations. And we didn’t cut corners. We didn’t let any employee leave Le Bernardin — except the ones that wanted to leave. But nobody was laid off. At that time I remember saying, "People in the recession, for the dollar they spend, they want the maximum. And therefore, we are going to give more then ever." And that, I think, made Le Bernardin a leader in not only fine dining but in the restaurant industry during a tough time in New York.

Greg: So you guys were unwavering. You didn’t for a second think, "Well, why don’t we just do a shorter menu?"

Eric: Nope.

Greg: Nope?

Eric: Not at all. And I remember having a discussion with a great client of ours who was spending a lot of money in wine each time he came to Le Bernardin. And one day he asked me if we were okay, because he said, "The dining room is full." I said, "Yes, we are okay. And you?" "Oh it’s a disaster." And I said, "Can I ask you a question? Why, if it’s a disaster, do you spend so much money on wine?" And he said, "What do you have for breakfast?" And I said, "I have Greek yogurt and coffee." He said, "Did you change the brand of the yogurt since it’s a recession?" I said, "No." He said, "Well, I’m not changing my wine." New York has a lot of wealthy people, and also has a lot of people who are not necessarily wealthy but who want to have an experience once a year and save money and come. And it happened during that recession. When they wanted to have a special experience, they were thinking about us, because they knew we were not cutting corners. We were actually delivering.

Greg: About what percentage of your clientele would you say are people visiting New York, let’s say from overseas? Europe, Asia. Something we are very interested in tracking at Eater is the influence of things like Michelin. You have three Michelin stars and are on the World’s 50 Best list. These sort of —

Eric: Look, the New York Times is very important. Without the New York Times support, I think it’s very difficult to stay open in New York.

Greg: You guys have gotten four stars ever since you’ve been there.

Eric: Yes, knock on wood somewhere.

Greg: Five visits?

Eric: Yes, five visits. Well, five reviews.

Greg: Five reviews.

Eric: Yes. Ruth Reichl came twelve times.

Greg: Wow! She’s really thorough. She must have really liked it.

Eric: I hope so! I mean, she gave us four stars, so. Michelin is very important, because it brings credibility internationally. The New York Times and Zagat, which are important as well, bring a lot of visibility and credibility locally in New York. But Michelin is very well read and highly-regarded in Asia, for instance. And people in Japan and in China, when they come to New York, they don’t know if the New York Times gave you four stars. They look at their Michelin. The 50 Best is the new kid on the block and they’ve become very important because they touch a young audience, and they are very international because they have covered the world. From South America to Asia to you name it, they are there. Between all that media, more local ones and international — those are very, very important to the life of restaurants at our level.

Greg: I definitely can understand and see that. They are for people who want to spend their money in a certain sort of way. And maybe want to take these trips.

Eric: But again, one day I had discussion with a journalist from the Observer and it was about feeding the one percent. And I said, "No, I’m sorry. We don’t feed the one percent." Of course, we do in many ways. But we have so many young — actually, millennials are very interested in having a very special experience. Something to remember forever. And lately in the dining room I see more and more. They came to Le Bernardin. They made a sacrifice to save money to come to us, to dress well, to do everything right. And I’m happy to see that.

Greg: Yeah, you have one of the last restaurants in New York with a dress code. I honestly think that’s wonderful.

Eric: Are we?

Greg: Yeah, there can’t be more than a dozen at this point.

"If I’m gonna go somewhere and I’m making an effort to dress well, or I’m celebrating and I’m in a festive mood, the last thing I want is a guy with flip-flops and a t-shirt in a nice environment, with other people who are dressed."

Eric: I mean, look, if I’m gonna go somewhere and I’m making an effort to dress well or I’m celebrating and I’m in a festive mood, the last thing I want is a guy with flip-flops and a t-shirt in a nice environment, with other people who are dressed. I think it’s very selfish for someone — or egoistic for someone — to behave in such a way.
Greg: Being dressed nicely, it definitely matches the entire experience around you. And I mean not just the food, but the kind of service. One thing I love about the fact that this city has great restaurants like Le Bernardin is that you get a kind of service that is so different from what you might get at even a really good restaurant downtown. Or a more casual restaurant. It is effortless. Everything is dropped at the same time, is moved at the same time. You don’t notice it, but it’s — you’re kind of enveloped in this thing.

Eric: Servers should be there, and you should not feel them except if you want to see them and interact with them. But they are always there. So it’s like we are talking now and let’s suppose I stand up and I want to leave my chair — the waiter is here. But I didn’t know he was here. I never felt he was listening to our conversation. But if I need, I don’t know, a napkin — he’s bringing it. This is an experience that is not easy to deliver. And consistency in service is not easy to deliver as well. But people appreciate that.

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: And of course sometimes you like to go to a casual place and the service is different and it’s totally fine with the environment. But New York is a big city and there’s space for everyone. Every day of the week you can have a different experience and enjoy it fully. Even if they are very different.

Greg: So in the back of the house, if somebody wants to work for you, in your kitchen, what is the bare minimum? What do you look for?

Eric: Well, of course it’s our common sense. Someone who is clean. Someone who is willing to work hard. Someone who is passionate. Someone who can be a team player, that’s very important. Because by yourself in a kitchen you cannot do much. When a restaurant is filled with 80 people, 60 people, even some small restaurant with 40 people. By yourself, you can’t provide consistency, quality. So you need to have an organization, and you have to be able to work with other people who are coming into your territory in the kitchen. And who are going to help you when you need it, and when they need help, you have to go help them. So for me, number one quality is being a team player.

Greg: That’s a really interesting thing. I would not have assumed that. I don’t know. I would have thought it was good knife skills or something like that.

Eric: The good knife skills — nobody is born with good knife skills. We will take care of that. Do not worry about it. We know, when we look at the resume and interview the cooks, we know where they stand, and we decide where they’re going to start. And very often they start in easy stations, and therefore we teach them our techniques, our values. We teach them everything that we believe is right. I’m not worried about the knowledge of the cook. We’re taking care of that. What I’m worried about is the mentality of the cook.

Greg: So unlike a lot of your contemporaries, and I mean contemporaries on this fine dining scale — people like Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud — well, you have Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, the wine bar that you opened with your sommelier and partner. It’s a great addition to Midtown and people love it.

Eric: It’s fun!

Greg: You get into a little more of that homey cooking there, with the coq au vin legs and charcuterie.

Eric: No fish. No fish at the wine bar.

Greg: Yeah?

Eric: Too close to Le Bernardin.

Greg: But unlike some of your contemporaries, you haven’t done that scaled down restaurant in the same way. Daniel Boulud has — well, he has a ton of restaurants that are all great but he has the Épicerie, where you can just go in and get a hot dog.

Eric: Absolutely.

Greg: Thomas Keller has Bouchon, which has a lot of integrity as well, but —

Eric: Absolutely.

Greg: Do you have any sort of inkling in your mind? Do you ever want to do that thing that is just a step or two down?

Eric: So we have a restaurant in the Cayman Islands, that is basically Le Bernardin by the beach.

Greg: That sounds lovely.

Eric: With a sense of place, you are in the Caribbean, obviously it’s the ambiance of the Caribbean. But I actually tried to open bistros or cafes. I tried a couple of times. It didn’t make me happy. I was really, really not happy with the experience of doing that. It’s not for me. So I’m not judgmental and obviously I’m happy that Daniel has successfully opened so many places and it’s very rewarding for him, I know that for a fact. Jean-Georges has done that. A lot of chefs have. You mentioned Thomas, and many other chefs have done it, and they are very happy and they love it. It doesn’t do it for me. I like being at Le Bernardin most of my time. I like to be with my team, work like an artisan. I like to mentor them, because I am at an age where I mentor them now. And that for me is very rewarding. I come back home, I have a good lifestyle. I see my family, I have time for myself. I have time with the team. It’s very interactive. I’m living my passion. My passion was always to be the chef of a fine dining [restaurant]. And it’s what I have. I don’t want anything else. I’m content.

Greg: There you go. That’s great. All right, chef. So we’ve actually come to the time in the show that we call the lightning round.

Eric: Okay.

Greg: So I’m just going to ask you some questions and just — the first thing that pops out of your head. We ask every guest on the show this.

Eric: Okay.

Greg: Okay. So the first questions is: You’re at the airport and you have an hour to kill. What do you do?

Eric: Which airport?

Greg: What’s the airport you go — JFK.

Eric: Hopefully I’m in the Delta terminal. But even La Guardia, the Delta terminal is pretty good. Now in airports, you have places that deliver good food. I know my way to get a good pizza. I know my way. I’m not joking!

"I actually tried to open bistros or cafes. I tried a couple of times. It doesn’t do it for me. I like being at Le Bernardin most of my time."

Greg: It’s true, it’s true, yeah.

Eric: So, I always go to a place to eat. And it’s not going to be the experience of being on the streets of New York, of course, but today in many, many airports, you find some good places. And I’m looking for those places.

Greg: Okay, lightning round question number two: What’s the best thing you’ve had to eat in the last year?

Eric: Whoa, that’s a tough one. Hmm. Anything with black truffles.

Greg: Anything with black truffles?

Eric: Yeah.

Greg: Yeah? What’s your favorite thing to do with black truffles when you get them? This is black truffle season right now, right?

Eric: Well, from Australia. Because it’s the winter over there. Usually the black truffle is from December to March. And then you have a break and then it starts again because the Australians now have black truffles. I’m fascinated by black truffles. I love white truffles but you cannot cook with them, you can only shave them. If you cook the white truffles, you lose the flavors. The black truffle actually releases its flavor into the sauce, into anything you do. So I love to cook with it, but as an eater, I love anything with black truffles. A sandwich. I mean, like a toast.

Greg: Yeah.

Eric: You put some shaved black truffles. I know it’s very elitist to think —

Greg: No!

Eric: A piece of bread and black truffles. But I love that.

Greg: I mean that’s the best way to enjoy it, right? So if you had to watch a TV show for ten hours, you had to binge- watch a TV show, which would it be? A new season of a show. Or do you watch TV?

Eric: I will watch Bourdain.

Greg: Yeah?

Eric: Parts Unknown. Yeah, actually —

Greg: He’s your buddy.

Eric: I do that.

Greg: You do that! Yeah! What was the best trip you ever took with him? You’ve done his shows many times.

Eric: We have done a lot of shows together. They’re all very different. And we have a good dynamic. We understand each other pretty well. We are very good friends, as you know. And the last show that Anthony aired with me was in Marseilles. Which was hilarious. To do one episode, it’s one week. And we spent one week laughing and having a good time. I did another show with him in China in Chengdu, it’s gonna come in the fall.

Greg: Oh.

Eric: I don’t know if I’m supposed to say it or not but anyways, a scoop. We had ten days of the same thing. I mean, it’s so much fun.

Greg: The shows look fun but they also look a little taxing. Travel, a lot of eating, a lot of drinking to be social and polite.

Eric: Well that’s Anthony’s problem.

Greg: Yeah. There you go. So, okay. Next lightning round question: If you go the bar in heaven and the bartender is pouring your favorite drink, what is it?

Eric: Dirty martini, with vodka, stirred.

Greg: Ooh. Very nice. And the last lightning round question is: If you were not the chef at Le Bernardin, if you had not just written 32 Yolks, if you had not just had your career. What would you have liked to have done?

Eric: I would like to be a forest ranger in the mountains of Andorra in the Pyrenees. And take care of the beavers, and the squirrels, and the trees.

Greg: Exciting, wow. Chef Eric Ripert, thank you so much for coming by the studio today.

Eric: Thank you, it’s my pleasure.

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The Eater Upsell is recorded at Vox Media Studios in Manhattan
Greg Morabito and Helen Rosner
Producers: Patrick Bulger and Maureen Giannone
Associate Producer/Editor:
Daniel Geneen
Associate Producer:
Kendra Vaculin

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