Today's Q&A subject is Eric Ripert. (I can't believe I just typed that.) Born in Antibes, France, he is the executive chef and part-owner of New York's Le Bernardin, which has been awarded three Michelin stars and four stars from The New York Times, among many, many other accolades. Ripert also oversees restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Caymon, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. You may have seen him guest-judging on Top Chef, or on his new PBS show, Avec Eric, where he finds culinary inspiration through his travels around the world. To encourage more people to cook at home, he also runs a refreshingly down-to-earth website with recipes and demos (some using only a toaster oven), challenging readers to recreate his menus and email photos of their meals. The thing about him that appeals to me the most (other than his dreamy accent) is how humble and genuinely nice he seems, even though he truly is a master chef. I am beyond excited to share this window into his entertaining philosophy.
1. Name, occupation, and city
Eric Ripert, Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Le Bernardin, NYC
2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
Last weekend in my country house and I invited close friends.
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
I actually don’t think like that, I create the menu depending on the season, who the company is, what my mood is…I will cook something different—so [there is] no such a thing for me as the best menu I’ve ever done. In the summer I love to cook paella and in the winter I love to cook capon stuffed with black truffle.
4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
Wine by far.
5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
Again, it depends on what kind of a party I am organizing and the time of the day—to me the soundtrack is not very important during the length of the meal itself. I want to hear the conversation more than the music. It becomes important after—if it becomes a late dinner and we are in the mood to dance.
6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner tomorrow night. What do you make?
Grilled steaks with whatever vegetables that look beautiful at the farmer’s market.
7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
If I know I can trust my help I definitely delegate a lot, if not I have no problem to cook myself which is usually more efficient anyway.
8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
Everything is made from scratch except desserts. I love to eat them but hate to make them. Therefore I buy [dessert] at a good pastry shop.
9. What do you like to serve for dessert? I love rustic pies in the summer – like peach or berry pies or berries with whipped cream and ice cream.
10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
The Dalai Lama.
[Photo: Nigel Parry]