Before chef Eric Ripert joins Anthony Bourdain and José Andrés in Puerto Rico for Culinary Getaways, we asked him why he gets mistaken as Bourdain, how Buddhism affects his cooking style, and what he thinks about Miami's dining scene.
If there’s a chef that needs no introduction, it’s Eric Ripert. As the force behind one of the best seafood restaurants in New York City, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin has held three Michelin stars since the ranking’s inception in 2005, and holds a consistent spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Along with his good friend Anthony Bourdain, Ripert will head to Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico for the Dorado Beach Culinary Getaway (November 5-8). Welcoming the powerhouse culinary duo is none other than one of the world’s most celebrated and charismatic Spanish chefs, José Andrés, who helms the hotel's newest outpost, Mi Casa by José Andrés.
Here, guests can expect chef cook-offs with other surprise toques, beach barbecues, boozy brunches, and more. In anticipation for the event, we caught up with Ripert to talk about his relationship with Anthony Bourdain, how he discovered Buddhism, and the worst thing a restaurant can do during service. For more information and tickets, visit ritzcarlton.com.
How did the Culinary Getaway come together, what role are you playing, and what are you most looking forward to?
ERIC RIPERT: Well José Andrés and Anthony have been doing Cayman Cookout in the Cayman Islands [for many years], which is a similar mini food and wine festival. We decided—because of José having a restaurant in Puerto Rico—to also do it in Dorado Beach and to have fun together. My role in the festival is to give cooking classes, have fun, organize dinners, and have fun, again.
You and Anthony have quite the relationship. What's something people are always surprised to hear about him?
ER: Tony is a workaholic. He is extremely, extremely disciplined in his life, [though] people think he’s partying a lot. He’s not at all.
How did you two meet?
ER: We met in 2000 when Kitchen Confidential came out. Everyone was talking about the book because it was very controversial since it was saying a lot of good things and bad things about the industry. Le Bernardin was mentioned throughout the book, so I bought it right away to see what he was saying. He had only compliments, so I invited him for lunch.
Do you find people recognize you when you eat out at restaurants? What are their reactions like?
ER: In New York, I’m recognized a lot. Actually, a lot of people think I'm Anthony Bourdain and a lot of people think Anthony is me, funny enough. Maybe it’s the hair. I get spoiled in restaurants: I get a good table, good service, good food, but people don’t bother me. New York is a little bit of a jaded city.
With today's modern media and the digital era, when do you think is the proper time to wait before a restaurant gets reviewed?
ER: In a sense, it’s not too fair to get reviewed right away, but when you look at it from the clients' point of view or journalists' point of view, it’s fair game because as soon as you open your doors and charge full prices to the client, the client and media are entitled to judge you. You are either ready or you’re not ready. And it’s why I don’t open restaurants. [laughs]
You discovered Buddhism by accident (or not) at the Charles de Gaulle Airport.
ER: It was in between a magazine and a book about Tibet, and the [Playboy] magazine. I was fascinated by the storyline about Tibet and Buddhism, and I have never regretted that choice.
Did it change you as a chef and as a person?
ER: Buddhism is about making you a better person and understanding life in a better way. It’s worked for me. It [has a] certain spirituality and logic that I like very much, and it talks to me. I have applied good principles of Buddhism with the employees of Le Bernardin.
Has it carried over to your cooking in any way?
ER: Probably in the way of having more simplistic presentations than having something complicated on a plate. It’s also more about the respect of the ingredients and the respect of the animals that have been killed and served to the clients—that’s probably where Buddhism had most impact.
Five years ago, you had the chance to cook for the Dalai Lama at Le Bernardin. How was that experience?
ER: Of course [I was] excited, but I’m excited everyday to cook for everyone. Personally, it was very rewarding and I was very pleased to be the chosen one.
Who are three people, living or dead, you would love to cook for?
ER: My father, who passed away when I was very young. Charles de Gaulle who was the president of France after World War II. And if I had the choice, why not Buddha himself?
What do you think about Miami's culinary landscape right now?
ER: Miami has changed enormously in the last 10 years. I remember 20 years ago, Miami was a challenging place to find a good restaurant that was not linked to a nightclub. But today, you can eat extremely well in Miami Beach, in North Miami, in Aventura—everywhere you go, you can find some great food.
Which young talent are you most excited about?
ER: Bryce Shuman at Betony in New York is very young and very talented; he works under Daniel Humm. In Miami, there are some good chefs. There’s a young generation of chefs today who are really pushing the envelope in all parts of the county, and that’s good news because it used to be a monopoly between New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Then, cities like Miami picked up very quickly.
Do you have a mantra you live by?
ER: Be yourself, do not harm.
What is the worst thing a restaurant can do?
ER: To serve bad food with an attitude and charge a lot of money for that. It happens.
Photography by: photography by nigel parry (ripert)