Eric Ripert having a ‘Good’ time on stage with Anthony Bourdain
BY MIRIAM DI NUNZIO firstname.lastname@example.org May 2, 2013 2:16PM
Expect plenty of humorous culinary fireworks from chefs Anthony Bourdain (left) and Eric Ripert during their live stage show May 9 at the Auditorium Theatre.
GOOD VS. EVIL: AN EVENING WITH ANTHONY BOURDAIN & ERIC RIPERT
♦ 7:30 p.m. May 9
♦ Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
♦ Tickets, $35 to $65
♦ (800) 982-ARTS (2787);
Updated: June 4, 2013 6:07AM
Take two world-renowned celebrity chefs, with accents as continentally different as their approaches to the culinary arts. Stir in successful cookbooks and TV series, a Michelin star or two (or three) and a James Beard award or two. Fold in a heaping helping of Zagat Guide accolades and a splash of four-star restaurant reviews. Now add a pinch of tony venues complete with sold-out audiences. Toss gently.
And there you have the recipe for “Good vs. Evil — An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.”
Live onstage, the two chefs — who in reality are not so good versus evil but best friends, according to Ripert — churn out an evening of celebrity roasting, humorous anecdotes and even an audience Q&A. It suits them to a toque.
“We have been friends for may years,” Ripert says, his lush accent punctuating every syllable. “When ‘Kitchen Confidential’ came out, I read the book and was so fascinated by it that I called Tony and invited him for lunch [at Le Bernardin, Ripert’s exquisite and perennially top-rated New York eatery]. I explained to him that his kitchen full of pirates was not in my world. It did not exist in my kitchen. He opened my eyes to this whole new kitchen experience. [Laughs] And yes, I think he was very happy with the lunch.”
Ripert, who was born in Antibes, France, and grew up in the tiny principality of Andorra (just over the border between France and Spain, the accolades are vast. As owner/chef of Le Bernardin in New York, Ripert’s reputation and skills have earned him some of the top honors in the world including outstanding restaurant of the year and outstanding chef in the United States from the James Beard Foundation; a 29 out of 30 rating for food from Zagat for the past three years; and the coveted three-star rating from Michelen for nearly a decade running.
Their stage show is a chance for each of them to come out swinging — as only best friends can — and nothing is off-limits.
“I think we are very different in our culinary approach,” says, Ripert, who also served as a guest judge for four seasons on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and hosted his own “Avec Eric” Emmy-winning series for PBS. “That is what makes this stage show so fun for us and the audience. Tony very often promotes the culture from the streets and street food. He doesn’t’ necessarily promote the upscale restaurant of the towns he visits. He wants people to be curious and adventurous and learn about different cultures and what they offer.
“Myself, I care more about fine dining because of my daily experience, and less about street food. Tony has opened this new experience to me, and that is wonderful.”
As for the duo’s stage show, Ripert says: “We always start out roasting each other. Tony is very brutal. There is no pity. Whatever he can do to hurt my feelings, he does. But then my turn comes and I am pretty good at getting him back. [Laughs] To me, the Anthony that most people know is from his television shows. [Laughing] But I want to know does he still have taste buds after smoking all his life? I want to establish things like that when it’s my turn to roast him.
“Then we sit on a sofa and talk about different topics in the food industry such as sustainability, and even topics such as obesity and diabetes and food in general. Then it’s open to questions from the audience, which is our favorite part.”
And don’t think for a moment that Ripert can’t take what Bourdain dishes out. He says it’s nothing compared to some of the brutal repartee he encountered during his early days training in the kitchens of some of the greatest chefs in France.
“As young cook, especially in France, they’re very tough in the kitchen,” he says with a laugh. “The idea is to make you humble and learn fast. It was borderline abusive in many kitchens. They had no problem telling you that your dish is disgusting and you’re an idiot.”
Which is why he tried to be nice when doling out the negative criticism when he served as a guest judge on “Top Chef.”
“I’ll try to find vocabulary that implies it’s horrific but doesn’t say that,” Ripert says. “I want to make sure contestant understands why it’s horrific.”
As for Chicago’s food scene, Ripert has nothing but high praise.
“Chicago always had an edge. When Charlie Trotter opened in Chicago, for many years he was very innovative an creative and the one to watch. Some people liked his style; others did not. ...He put Chicago on the map. His legacy was absorbed by those who came after. I like Grant [Achatz] too. He’s pushing the envelope and challenging himself every day.”
Asked if restaurants should be required to list calories and fat contents, Ripert is adamant in his reply. “I don’t like it when I go to a restaurant and I’m lectured from the menu.”