Find Us

Eric Ripert Talks About Conch, The Rolling Stones, the Dalai Lama and Hiring from Bravo’s Top Chef

Special to Washington Examiner
Up Close With Jordan Wright of Whisk and Quill
October 2010

Eric Ripert - photo credit Angie Mosier

Eric Ripert - photo credit Angie Mosier

Based on his popular eponymous PBS TV program “Avec Eric”, the book follows culinary superstar and top toque, Eric Ripert, as he explores the culture and tradition of select regions of Italy, the Cayman Islands, New York and California. In his quest to celebrate the bounty of the regions to he loves so well, “AVEC ERIC: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert, Featuring Over 100 Simple Recipes “(Wiley), mirrors the show’s sense of adventure and Ripert’s deep appreciation for local and seasonal ingredients.

Part travelogue, part cookbook compendium, it contains over 100 new recipes drawn from Ripert’s most recent journeys. It is filled with snapshots from the fields and waters he traversed, and the hunters and watermen he met and cooked with. Handwritten notes and hand-drawn illustrations give the book a uniquely personal feel reflecting his convivial spirit and the inspiration behind his approach to each dish.

His outpost in Washington, DC is West End Bistro by Eric Ripert.

Jordan Wright – I loved your latest book. Reading it I felt as though I had been on a wonderful trip.

Eric Ripert – It is like going on vacation but staying home. It’s a good reflection of what we have done in the last season.

JW – Your Zen approach to food, approaching it by its origin and terroir and visiting its source, heralds the next generation of chefs. How have your recent journeys informed what you do in the kitchen today?

ER – If you consider cooking an art, inspiration has to come from somewhere, from your surroundings as a chef. I am inspired by the products, the seasons and the people I interact with. It’s kind of a strange process but I digest the information and then, when I create, it comes out in a dish. It always works for me and it’s the same for a lot of chefs. I teach my cooks how to be aware and how to be inspired by where they are.

JW – Your previous book, “On The Line”, was an energetic minute-by-minute account of the running of Le Bernardin and its kitchens…a detailed primer for any high-end restaurant, owner or server. With your newest book, you take the reader with you on your culinary journey to share in your travels. What would you like to say about your latest book?

ER – Well, I loved it! I wanted to do a documentary on the life of our restaurant but in book form instead of filming with a camera. I wanted to pay homage to my team at Le Bernardin. The idea was to be inspirational to young people in our industry and to demonstrate what goes on behind-the-scenes.

JW – I understand you began your career at La Tour d’Argent in Paris. Was that under owner Claude Terrail? I knew his nephew, Patrick, in New York when he ran L’Etoile and in Beverly Hills when he owned Ma Maison.

ER – Yes, and Patrick is back in Paris now managing La Tour D’Argent.

JW – What unique products did you discover while writing this book that you now use?

ER – We discovered a lot of products during our experience – especially conch and black fin tuna in the Cayman Islands. [Ripert’s restaurant, Blue, is located on Grand Cayman Island in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel].

JW – Your remarks as a guest judge on “Bravo’s Top Chef” have been informative and useful to the contestants. What sage advice do you have for up and coming chefs? And would you hire any of the cooks from the show?

ER – Sure, if they are looking for a job and we have some openings! My advice is if you are coming into our industry you need to make sure you have the passion for cooking, and not for becoming famous. You have to work hard, be humble and be open-minded.

JW – I saw you in May at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC with your cohort, Anthony Bourdain, who wrote the forward to this book. It was a fabulous evening – totally sold out. The audience couldn’t get enough of the live Q and A. I learned that night that you have been waiting to get drunk with The Rolling Stones! Has that happened yet?

ER – Not yet. One can only hope.

JW – What international cuisine would you next like to experience in your travels?

ER – I love Japanese cuisine and would love to spend more time in Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

JW – In what direction do you think in-home cooking is going?

ER – I think it has been lost a little bit in the past decade, but is coming back strongly because of the recession. People are more inclined to cook at home now because of the influence of cooking shows and celebrity chefs. Today we see more and more people looking for sustainable ingredients, good quality ingredients, and being more concerned about their source.

JW – What can we expect in Season 2 of Avec Eric?

ER – You’ll see more inspiration, more cooking and more fun. We shot in the Caribbean, in Virginia and Upstate New York and Italy too. In Virginia we went to Urbanna to see the soft-shell crabs and visited Wallace Edwards and Sons in Surry for the hams. Later we shot an episode with Patrick O’Connell at The Inn at Little Washington.

JW – What would you prepare to seduce a beautiful woman?

ER – First of all I would try to find out if she has allergies! Then I would prepare something savory, flavorful, light and refined, of course.

JW – What historical person would you most like to dine with? And why?

ER – The Dalai Lama.

JW – Didn’t you just cook for him on his recent visit to New York?

ER – Yes, but I didn’t eat with him!

JW – What did you serve?

ER – I gave him wild salmon served in a light broth infused with a lot of herbs and spices and with summer vegetables. And he ate it all!

JW – You had a bit of a mishap during one of your visits in Italy. What are your new and improved plans the next time you run into a wild boar?

ER – To have a gun with me! Though, no, no, no, maybe not, I’m not a hunter. But I’d like to be close to a big tree that I could climb up in.

This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Jordan Wright.

Recipe for Spice-Crusted Duck Breast by Eric Ripert for “Avec Eric”


Spice-Crusted Duck Breast with Orange-Honey Glaze and Cumin-Scented Carrots

Spice-Crusted Duck Breast with Orange-Honey Glaze and Cumin-Scented Carrots

My visit to a bee sanctuary in Sonoma, California inspired me to start cooking more with honey. It is a versatile ingredient that adds a nice, fl oral sweetness.


1 ½ pounds baby carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup water, approx.
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ lemon

1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground star anise
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless duck breast halves, trimmed
fine sea salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the carrots in a large skillet with the butter, honey, and about cup of water. Heat over medium-high heat and season the carrots with cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are lightly caramelized and tender, about 20 minutes. Finish the carrots with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Stir together the coriander, cumin, star anise, white pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl to blend. Season the duck breasts on both sides with salt, then coat the skin side of the duck breasts with the spice mixture, forming a crust.

Divide the canola oil between 2 sauté pans and heat over medium heat. When the pans are hot, gently place 2 duck breasts, skin sides down, in each pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board to rest. Return the pans to the stove.

Divide the shallots between the pans and cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the orange juice, lemon juice and honey, dividing equally. Simmer to reduce by half, about 8 minutes. Finish the pan sauce by whisking in the butter and seasoning to taste with salt. Combine the sauce into one pan.

Thinly slice the duck breasts crosswise and place the duck slices on 4 plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck and serve with the roasted carrots.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.