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Eat to the Beat: Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert is the award-winning chef of Le Bernardin in New York, and the host of Avec Eric on PBS. Here he serves up his thoughts on snacks, grub, and rock & roll.

 

What do chefs and rock stars have in common?
So much. We’re both in the pleasure business. We are both free-spirited and live sort of extreme lifestyles. We both create something intangible – just like notes disappear, so do flavors, so you enjoy them in the moment. And the same way a musician depends on his instruments, we depend on our knives and pots and pans and fire.

First times: what’s the first record you bought? First meal you cooked?
The first record I got with my own money was by Johnny Hallyday, who is sort of like the French Elvis. I was probably nine or ten. And the first meal I can really take credit for was in culinary school when I was fifteen. It was goulash and tarte tatine.

Let’s talk starters: what’s your ultimate side one, track one, and what’s your ultimate appetizer?
It really depends on what’s in season, but anything with black truffles is my favorite appetizer
And my favorite album is Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, so I would say “Speak to Me.”

Let’s talk seduction: what’s your go-to soundtrack for getting it on, and what’s your go-to meal for getting a lady in the mood?
You should try to create a menu that's tasty and light, but exceptional: a bright, colorful salad of baby vegetable, king crabs legs with champagne sauce, truffles, and champagne to drink. For music, you have to play what she likes, you know?


On the road: what’s your ultimate road food and what are the best driving songs?
When I drive I tend not to stop and eat too much, but I always take Gummi Bears and dark chocolate. And if I’m driving late at night, I go with techno music, like Paul Oakenfold.

Food and music pairings - can you pair a dish with:

Pink Floyd
Well, Roger Waters likes fish a lot, so I’d do seasonal vegetables, like morels and white asparagus this time of year, and striped bass that he will have caught. He loves to fish.

Miles Davis
I would do some baby back ribs. I don’t necessarily have a recipe, but I eat a lot of them so I will find a way!


Edith Piaf
Well, she liked to drink a lot, so it would need to be food for a boozer, so maybe a classic burger and fires. She was obviously a very French singer, but she loved America.


Jay-Z
Because of “Empire State of Mind” I’d go with a New York strip with lots of black pepper and maybe some collard greens.

Lady Gaga
Something decadent, but not too whacky, like a lobster omelet with crème fresh and caviar.


If you could have all of your favorite artists over for a dinner party, who would you invite?
Mick Jagger, Bono, Roger Waters, Wynton Marsalis, Jim Morrison, Tito Puente, Cachao – who was a famous Cuban artist – Louis Armstrong and Claude Nougaro, who made jazz music with French poetry over it. Manitas de Plata, a gypsy flamenco player. And definitely Prince! I would also invite Maria Callas and Amy Winehouse. I think those two would be a really good combination.

What would you cook?
I would make a gigantic paella, Valencia-style, with chorizo, rice, saffron, onion, garlic , shrimp, monkfish, clams and mussels. And rosé to drink, with a stash of scotch in the back.


What kind of music is good for cooking?
In my kitchen at Le Bernardin we don’t play music, but at home I listen to techno. When I was a young cook in New York, twenty years ago, I would go to the clubs with guys like DJ Tiesto, Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez deejaying. I’d go home after work, sleep for a few hours, and then hit the clubs at 6am – when the DJ was so high he was at his best – dance until 1pm, and then go to lunch. Now if I did that, I’d need two weeks to rest.

If you could see one artist perform, who you’ve never seen before, who would it be?
I would love to see Prince play one of those really intimate shows. For a little guy, he can really move his ass.

What’s the one restaurant that you haven’t eaten at that you’re looking forward to?
Probably the Fat Duck, in England, but unfortunately it’s always packed. I tried to go last year and couldn’t get a reservation!

What is your rock & roll fantasy?
I would want to see Pink Floyd perform together in the seventies. I would really love to see that.

If you had access to a time machine and could have a meal anywhere, any time what would it be?
I would actually like to go to El Bulli now, because in a few months they are closed forever. I’ve eaten there once before, and I would love to duplicate that.