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Eric Ripert is a culinary powerhouse! And if you're a fan of Bravo's Top Chef TV show, you know why. In addition to his regular guest judge spot on Top Chef, where he is known for his thoughtful comments and pensive demeanor, he is the chef and co-owner of New York's celebrated Le Bernardin restaurant. He also operates Westend Bistro in Washington DC, 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia, and Blue at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Plus, he's the host of his own PBS TV series Avec Eric, which has won Emmy and James Beard awards. And did we mention he's written four cookbooks?
This congenial celeb recently took the time to chat with us about how to set up the ultimate kitchen for cooks. Keep reading to see what he said!
CULTIVATE: Many restaurants come and go, but your New York restaurant, Le Bernardin, is here to stay. The recipient of three Michelin stars, it’s celebrating 26 years of popular acclaim. What is the inside of the Le Bernardin kitchen like?
ERIC: We use the Waldorf System—very traditional French and the most efficient way to cook. The long island provides space for many cooks to work at the same time. We don’t use too much modern technology; instead we rely on the oven, grill, and fire.
CULTIVATE: So that’s your restaurant kitchen—what about at home?
ERIC: I have a Poggenpohl kitchen—they’re the best in the world, in my opinion! My cook top [see photo below] is in the island, facing guests (it’s an induction so it’s safe to touch and efficient). From that location, I have space to plate and use my cutting board. Knives are on my right, pots and pans to my left, and the garbage underneath. I have my ovens and faucet nearby too. Pros typically set up kitchens this way so they don’t waste time walking around looking for things.
Eric at home in his kitchen; photo by Keith Scott Morton
CULTIVATE: You were born in the south of France. What are the big differences between American and French kitchens?
ERIC: Even in humble European houses, kitchens are more efficient than they generally are in America. Many American kitchens I’ve seen are in big, beautiful homes, but the stove is 10 feet from the refrigerator, which is 20 feet away from water. Another big difference is that in an European country kitchen you usually have a fireplace for cooking.
CULTIVATE: You’re a popular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. (You knew this question was coming...) Give us the dirt!
ERIC: Not many people know this, but we only see the contestants when they come out of the kitchen, so we don’t know their personalities. We have no idea who’s nice and who’s a cheater—we only judge the dish. Sometimes we debate for six or seven hours before we choosing a winner. Then, I’ll watch the show later and see what really went on.
CULTIVATE: What tools are most important for avid home cooks?
ERIC: Knives! Without good knives you can’t do good cooking, and pans need to be of high quality. As far as gadgets go, I must confess that I love the toaster oven! In fact, I have a show called Get Toasted in which I teach people how to create gourmet meals in a toaster oven.