If folks in the audience at the Pearl Saturday night for Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert’s Good vs. Evil were wondering what kind of evening was in store, Bourdain cleared things up right away: “I hope you motherf*ckers have been drinking, ’cause we have.”
In a word: salty. And what else would you expect from two well-seasoned culinary pros, taking the stage to talk sustainability, odd French songbird-eating practices and Gordon Ramsay?
The evening started with a one-on-one roast, first with Ripert in the hot seat (a metal folding chair), as Bourdain stalked around the famed French chef, grilling him on the name of his New York City restaurant (Le Bernardin, named for French foodie monks), his immigration status (citizen) and why John McEnroe isn’t welcome for dinner (it all goes back to post-9/11 episode of Letterman and some poorly received references to freedom fries). We learned that the full dinner experience at Le Bernardin will set you back a cool $350, and that unless you’re the president of France, you can’t order a cheeseburger. Apparently knighting the chef will get you everywhere. We learned that Ripert has beef with Mr. Ramsay for being a poor ambassador for the restaurant industry, but that he loves Guy Fieri, and that he wouldn’t eat a bite of toro from the last bluefin tuna on Earth, even if it were sitting in front of him fresh and pink and gloriously delicious at the Tsukiji fish market, such is his dedication to sustainable dining.
Soon the men switched places, and it was Bourdain’s turn to feel the heat. Ripert’s cross-examination covered his friend’s extensive drug use (“all of them”), his kitchen experience (Bourdain said he’d worked in good restaurants, never a great one) and his feelings toward vegetarians (chilly, to say the least). We learned that Bourdain is a staunchly pro-death penalty liberal and that he’s never gotten more hate mail than when he had “Uncle” Ted Nugent on the show. We learned that Tom Colicchio and Co. keep large gin and tonics under the Top Chef judges’ table, and that as much smack as Bourdain might talk about the farm-to-table organic lobby, when it comes to his own kid, she gets organics only. “I’m a hypocrite,” he admitted smiling.
Finally, we learned that Rachel Ray has grown on the new CNN personality, while Martha Stewart is permanently on his sh*t list (it all goes back to an episode of her show and an unfortunate incident with a pasta-maker), and that when he dines around the world, he abides by the grandmother rule of guestdom (you eat what your grandmother puts in front of you and ask for seconds, no matter how dry that turkey is).
By the time the duo cracked beers and started debating the relative importance of chefs and ingredients, it felt like we’d been invited to an impossibly cool dinner party, never mind the lack of actual food. Ripert and Bourdain put each other through blind taste tests, Bourdain sipping on a glass of Cotes du Rhone and easily determining its appellation and color (white), and Ripert admirably tackling a deep-fried Twinkie. “It’s a beignet of some sort?” he asked, covered in powdered sugar. “The cream is really bad.”
Lots of people likely had only-in-Vegas experiences Saturday night, but for those in attendance at the Pearl, watching Ripert try his first Twinkie is likely one they won’t soon forget.