Gail Simmons chats with Chef Eric Ripert
Food & Wine’s Gail Simmons chats with Chef Eric Ripert about his new book, Avec Eric, based on his PBS television show....
Gail Simmons: When did you decide that cooking was something that you wanted to pursue?
Eric Ripert: I always had a passion for eating and being in the kitchen and looking at cookbooks. I was a weak student, and my teachers told me that I needed to find a profession that would allow me to build on my strengths. I was fifteen at the time I decided to become a chef.
Gail Simmons: People come to Le Bernardin for the ultimate dining experience, but Avec Eric was created for the passionate home cook. Is there any advice you can give the home cook about how they should approach these recipes?
Eric Ripert: I was thinking like a home cook who invited friends to my home for a simple meal, following the seasons and using those ingredients to create one amazing experience that would allow me to mingle, eat and drink with my guests. The recipes and ingredients always reflect a place and the inspiration I took away from that place. On the show, Avec Eric, we talk a lot about respecting the ingredients, the seasons, and the people who are providing those ingredients, from farmers and fisherman to hunters and butchers.
Gail Simmons: It’s one thing when a chef has the opportunity to go out and meet the farmers and place big orders and think locally and seasonally but if I’m cooking at home, how can I embrace those philosophies?
Eric Ripert: It depends on where you live! If you live in New York, we often find that we are disconnected from our food sources, but, even here, there are farmer’s markets available to us. We can establish relationships with these people, who make the effort to come with their harvests, and we can ask them to give us tips about using these ingredients in the kitchen. Even if you go to a big market, you can talk to the butcher and ask him questions that will help you at home. If you can share that special moment, it can be fun and inspiring, with the opportunity to cook with ingredients that you may otherwise have not dared to touch.
Gail Simmons: How did you decide to make Avec Eric? Where did the original idea come from?
Eric Ripert: I wanted to do some television and demystify where inspiration comes from for a chef. When we produced the show with Anomaly, we decided that we would introduce the audience to the kitchen of Le Bernardin and show them the behind-the-scenes work; travel to inspiring locations and share the interaction with growers, farmers, fisherman, and hunters; and finally return to my home kitchen and cook a fresh, simple dish inspired by my travel.
Gail Simmons: How did you come to decide what pieces of your kitchen you would show everyone?
Eric Ripert: For me, the saucier lives in the most sacred place in the kitchen because the combination of knowledge and wisdom makes someone a true saucier. It’s all about displaying the craft, using strong knife skills, learning how to sauté a fish, and more. You don’t measure flavors. They are in the mind, and then they are transformed into a remarkable sauce by the combination of complex flavors. I wanted to show how the saucier is creating complex flavors with different ingredients and maintaining them in a dish with big flavor.
Gail Simmons: What is your favorite recipe in the book?
Eric Ripert: I always go back to ones that remind me of my grandmother and were inspired by her, Tarragon and Citrus-Honey Vinaigrette and Roasted Chicken with Za’atar Stuffing, among many others.
Gail Simmons: Was it your hope for this book that, for example, if I never get to Chianti or have the opportunity to hunt wild boar, this book could provide a small window of inspiration?
Eric Ripert: If you cannot get to these places, you can dream about them. Someday, you might visit or you might have a similar experience that will remind you about the times that you have used and enjoyed this book in the kitchen. You can create excitement by going into your kitchen and cooking something from your own experience, whatever it is, even if it is not one from far away.
Gail Simmons: It sounds like this book is a template of your stories, along with the instructions for going into the kitchen and creating the stories on your own.
Eric Ripert: Yes, exactly. If you are a beginner cook, I encourage you to follow the recipes and menu suggestions. If you are a more experienced cook, you should feel free to substitute other fresh ingredients for those that I suggest in the recipes. This book should represent the beginning of your culinary adventures in your kitchen. The recipes are simple and can be modified if you don’t have certain ingredients. If you want to make salad and you don’t have Romaine lettuce, then you can use Boston lettuce. Be passionate in the kitchen and let my inspirations guide your own.
Gail Simmons: When you’re away from your home, what food do you crave the most?
Eric Ripert: If it’s on the weekend, I crave meat because I eat fish all week!
Gail Simmons: What’s your favorite way of eating meat?
Eric Ripert: The Whole Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Butter Sauce or Seared Skirt Steak and Spinach Salad with Red Wine-Shallot Vinaigrette are two great choices from Avec Eric.
By Eric Ripert
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