Eric Ripert is the coolest. In an increasingly hype-heavy, style-over-substance culinary world, he is calm, collected and virtuous, and utterly devoted to his craft. While most “celebrity” chef types are busy building multimedia, multi-restaurant empires, Ripert maintains razor-sharp focus on his internationally acclaimed seafood restaurant Le Bernardin, which has received four stars from the New York Times every time it’s been reviewed, starting in 1986. He’s in Vegas this week for a unique speaking engagement at the Palms, playing “good” to Anthony Bourdain’s “evil.”
I’m assuming you don’t make it to Vegas often. I’ve been to Las Vegas many times.
Do you come to work or to have a normal, fun Vegas experience? What is the Vegas experience now? It’s not for families anymore, right? (laughs)
Right. That was kind of a weird experiment that didn’t last. When I come, it’s mixing pleasure and work. The thing I like very much is shows, the entertainment and, of course, the restaurants. There is great food in Vegas.
We like to think so. Really, for its size, definitely. You can’t compare it with a city like New York, obviously, because it’s 10 times the size and there are so many more restaurants. But it’s such a concentrated area there, it’s amazing. It could be the capital of the world in terms of eating because of that ratio.
- Good vs. Evil: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert
- February 9, 8 p.m., $59-$107.
- The Pearl, 944-3200.
How did this show with Anthony Bourdain come about? Tony and I have been good friends for a long time. He has a show like this on his own, and he does about 40 shows per year, and he said one day it would be fun if I came along and did a show called Good and Evil. Of course, I said yes, and we went on the road and we have a lot of fun. People are really enjoying it, according to the response we’re getting, so we do 10 or 20 shows per year.
What kind of a show can we expect? We start by roasting each other. He likes to find the worst chair in the theater, some beat-up chair, and bring it on the stage for the roasting. There are no scripts. We’re always improvising; it’s always a surprise. Then we move away from that and sit down and discuss topics more serious, like sustainability, or our opinions on the industry and where it’s going, or advice for young cooks. Then we open it up for question and answer.
I was just watching an episode of your On the Table web series, and it was the one with Roger Waters. He was going off about politics and religion, and you were cooking langoustines. I bet you never thought you’d be doing that. No idea at all (laughs). I mean, obviously I went into cooking for the right reasons, because I love it, but I had no idea I’d be able to combine my passion for cooking and hosting and so on, and also have some fun with other media-related things, like this show with Tony. But I like it, because in my life, I am not obsessed only with cooking. I have other interests. So there is a good balance.
Le Bernardin is always your main interest, right? It is my main focus. We have a restaurant in the Cayman Islands, too, but Le Bernardin, that’s my life.
You recently stepped away from your restaurants in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Are you developing new projects? I am mainly focused with Le Bernardin. For me, I do not wish to build an empire. I have a level of contentment that is pretty modest compared to other chefs, in terms of developing. At the end of the day, what matters is to be happy with yourself. Some chefs go crazy with one restaurant, and if I had 20, I would go nuts. Everyone has to find their own path. To me, it’s very important to have time at the restaurant but also time with family and time for myself.
I’m sure you’ve been approached before to do a restaurant in Las Vegas. I have.
Is that something you’ve contemplated seriously? Well, no, I am not contemplating doing it, but also, nobody’s calling me anymore!