Passion Points: Food/Wine
Despite the occasional stint on Top Chef, Eric Ripert remains best known as the culinary whiz behind Le Bernardin, New York’s three-star haute French seafood haven. In addition to being one of the few New York chefs awarded Michelin’s highest honor, Ripert also chairs the City Harvest Food Council, which raises funds and food donations for needy communities, and heads the Jean-Louis Palladin Foundation, providing grants to young chefs. Ripert launched the Cayman Cookout in 2009, teaming with fellow super-chefs Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, José Andrés and Grant Achatz to create an annual feast on the beach. Future projects include filming season two of Ripert’s first television show, Avec Eric. Chef Ripert lives in New York with his wife Sandra and his six-year-old son Adrien.
How have your travels influenced your cooking?
Travel is one of the great sources of inspiration for me. I love New York but I always find it refreshing to leave once in a while and see something new. I never can predict how it will come out in my cooking. Sometimes it’s very immediate, and then sometimes it takes years.
Are there any especially memorable dining experiences that stand out in your mind (i.e. an unforgettable meal you’ve eaten somewhere special)?
I had a great meal this year at Laurent Gras’s restaurant in Chicago called L20 (2300 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-686-0002).
What are some of your favorite destinations, and where are you headed next?
I will spend some time in France in the coming year, and of course I am looking forward to going to the Cayman Islands in January. In the Cayman Islands, there are a few places that really stand out, places I try to visit each time I am in Cayman. Stingray City in the Cayman Islands is where in as little as two to six feet of water, everyone – with or without snorkel gear – can feed and touch the friendly Southern Atlantic stingrays. I’ll be bringing a group once again this year on a catamaran to visit the stingrays and eat my ceviche. I like to spend afternoons with friends at Calico Jack’s beachside bar (West Bay Rd, Seven Mile Beach; 345-945-7850) right on Public Beach in Grand Cayman, and I also recommend to everyone the Jean-Jacques Cousteau Ambassadors of the Environment program at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman (Seven Mile Beach; 345-943-9000) where children are introduced to the natural wonders and rich cultural traditions of the Cayman Islands and how important the sea is to their way of life and to the world.
In France, I love Toulouse. In Toulouse, I suggest a few things as must do: the daily market in the city center, having a drink in Place du Capital—and visiting Michel Sarran’s great two-star restaurant (21 Boulevard Armand Duportal; 33-5-6112-3232). Later in the year I will travel to Asia to film season two of my show Avec Eric.
What inspired you to launch the Cayman Cookout last year?
We thought it would be fun to create a very relaxed food and wine event, one where all the events would be held out-of-doors on a small, intimate scale. Plus, I wanted a good excuse to have to go to Grand Cayman in January when it’s freezing in New York, and another excuse to get even more Cayman Sea Salt to bring back with me. Do you know about Cayman Sea Salt? It is hand-produced using this technique called solar evaporation, which makes the salt so pure and delicious on everything from fishes to tropical fruit.
When home in New York, where do you head for dinner on a night off?
It all depends on my mood—sometimes it’s for yakitori at Yakitori Totto (251 W. 55th Street; 212-245-4555), which is near my restaurant in midtown Manhattan, or else I always love going downtown to Balthazar.
What are your favorite foodie destinations outside of New York?
They are endless…
Any New Year’s resolutions for the coming year?
I never make resolutions and I know one thing for sure – it won’t be to cut down on chocolate or start going to the gym.
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