Eric Ripert. Ethan Stowell. Kim Ricketts. Me?

Having the opportunity to take in greatness doesn’t happen too often. But when it opens itself up to you, you have to take it. Thus began my food adventure for a dinner by Ethan Stowell for Eric Ripert. The occasion was to celebrate Chef Ripert’s recent book, On The Line, but it could also be about celebrating food.

One of the things I love about blogging is sharing my experiences. What is blogging but a diary that the world could read? Mine just happens to be about food and wine. That’s why I have to share this great event that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Because isn’t a great meal about sharing?

First off much credit goes to Kim Ricketts, and her friends Judy and Kirsten. Kim is awesome, she hosts these really cool book events all over the place. We conversed at the FAT event last month and talked about how great the Eric Ripert event will be. She got the thing rolling and was kind enough to have me join them at their table. Always an honor to be a VIP, and I was thankful for it.

The next thanks goes to Ethan Stowell and his wife Angela. Chef Stowell and his team provided the food and he cannot be lauded enough for executing Eric’s ideas from the book. Thank you chef. He’s a badass in the kitchen also; recently being named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2008. Angela was a delight as well; she kept the night humming along, was quick to help the team, and was quick to share a fun anecdote.

But the guest of honor was Eric Ripert and he is a definition of a great chef, one that is in a rarefied air that plays a game most dream of. You may also know him as one of the guest judges on Top Chef. He is arguably one of the greatest chefs in the world and many consider him the best seafood chef in the world. His restaurant ,Le Bernardin, continually dukes it out for the title of best restaurant in America. This Manhattan restaurant also has the Michelin stars to prove it. Three of ’em.

He was in town to talk about his new book, On The Line, which is about the Le Bernardin experience. First off, this is a very unique book; yeah there are recipes, but it also illustrates a bit of Chef Ripert’s practical experience – what it takes to be one of the best restaurants year after year. I’d highly suggest it as a gift.

What’s great about On The Line is that it opens the curtain on how Le Bernardin does their thing. It’s with a dedication for excellence in consistency. And how to deliver that every night to every table with every plate. These are principals that anyone can take: be the best by executing your plan to the best of your abilities. Shouldn’t we all do that?

But the night wasn’t just about Chef Ripert and his book, it was about the food and Ethan’s representation of it. Ethan created a menu that used Eric’s recipes – challenging enough when the creator of these recipes was in the room, but Ethan and his team nailed it. Well done. All were really good (and in the book!), but I particularly liked:

  • Flash marinated fluke with lemon confit – a beautiful representation of this fish, touched with light touches of citrus, it was great.
  • Black pepper and cognac shrimp – we were able to get our hands a bit messy, but these plump shrimps had a wonderful full flavor that was in perfect balance that made the sticky fingers worth it.
  • Rare-seared yellowtail hamachi marinated in tandoori spices with pickled cucumber and mango-salad – this was to die for. The sear on the fish made for a great crust. By this point I was in seafood heaven

With these accolades, what was Chef Ripert like? Gracious, kind, talkative and just a good guy to be around. We talked about his restaurant, life, bookstores, his favorite fish to cook with, the level of service one should expect at a restaurant, the direction of food in our country, and more. It was engaging to talk with him, given his experience and success in the industry, his words have weight. You don’t get to this level without a validity, confidence, and a belief in what you are doing.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed listening to was his commentary on the importance of sauces. A big part of French cuisine are sauces and they are paramount in his eye. Chef Ripert believes that sauces are a great way of putting your personality into cooking; while playing within the confines of food science, the ability to be creative in these conditions is something he values deeply.

This evening with Ethan Stowell and Eric Ripert was a unique experience that I’ll remember. I was extremely fortunate to partake in it; thanks again Kim for letting me join and help move the food conversation along. Kim does these events often: care to join me?

Update: Did you know that Eric Ripert is going to have his own TV show?

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