Friday, October 1, 2010

Bookish event : An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

Last night I went to see Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert speak before a sold out crowd. Rather than using a moderator, the chefs took turns interviewing each other, which made for thirty minutes of good-natured ribbing. First, Mr. Bourdain "grilled" Chef Ripert on such topics as his recent controversial comments regarding Gordon Ramsay and his show, Hell's Kitchen; why he supported eliminating Tiffany on Top Chef; and his  enjoyment of Guy Fieri's work. I thought Chef Ripert's explanation of his Hell's Kitchen comments was spot on. He came up in French abusive kitchens and feels it is the wrong way to inspire people to do great work. The way people are treated on the show is disrespectful and humiliating. I've never watched Hell's Kitchen precisely because it does look so cruel.

Then Chef Ripert got his chance to put Anthony Bourdain through the ringer by teasing him about his journey to celebrity chefdom, or, as Chef Bourdain put it, his checkered career at mediocre restaurants. Chef Ripert asked him about the term "fame whore" and whether he thought he was a good inspiration or role model. Chef Bourdain gave an adamant no to being a role model. Ripert's question was framed by the fact that Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential has sold millions of copies. Bourdain went on to say, "I was shocked when people as far west as Pennsylvania read it [Kitchen Confidential]."

Following their mutual interrogation, the two men sat down to have a more serious, though still humorous, conversation. They discussed shrinking fish populations, the relative worth of Alice Waters to the local and organic food movements, and the future of fine dining. They finished their conversation with Anthony Bourdain posing the following question to Chef Ripert before opeinging it to questions from the audience.

AB: When you go out to eat what makes you angry?
AB: "I'll start. I hate the Olive Garden."
laughter from the crowd
Chef Bourdain continued his rant, which boiled down to the fact that he hates bad, fake, dumbed down food. He gave examples of both Italian and Mexican food as "simple good thing[s] that we have somehow distorted."

Chef Ripert said he gets angry when food is spoiled and could make him ill. Such food shouldn't be served. He said this is the only time he would send food back to the kitchen.

Tons of audience members lined up to ask questions. Some of the highlights:

Why is it important to eat the worst parts of an animal?
AB: "If you're going to kill an animal, it's only polite not to waste it."

What do you think of genetically-engineered fish?
ER: They "would never pass the door of Le Bernardin."

What was your worst kitchen disaster?
AB: "I made a wedding cake once."

What restaurants should we eat at before we die?
ER: L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon (US locations: New York & Las Vegas) and El Bulli (Spain) [I'm not completely certain of the 2nd restaurant, but it fits the details Chef Ripert gave.]
AB: Yasuda or Masa (New York) for truly great sushi and Au Pied de Cochon (Montreal, Canada) [Again, I'm deducing the 2nd restaurant from the details conveyed by Chef Bourdain.]

The format and length of the program were perfect. Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert were both engaging and entertaining. They kept the audience laughing but also introduced thoughtful ideas about food and cooking. I was also lucky enough to have a book signed by each of these extraordinary celebrity chefs. The entire evening was quite a treat. If you ever have the opportunity to see them, GO! Even if you aren't that into food or cooking (honestly, I'm not), you fill find these two gentleman extremely entertaining.

Disclaimer: I tried to transcribe the above quotes exactly. If they are not exact, I believe they still represent the spirit and meaning of the speaker.

Photos courtesy of Samantha

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a fantastic event! I'm glad you got to go, even if I am a little bit jealous!