Talking Food Critics, Ethnic Influence and Chef Instability in Dallas with Eric Ripert

Categories: Food News

We don't have a script. We surprise each other each time. Basically my strategy is to question his intelligence capabilities because he did so many drugs. I definitely question his taste buds because he smoked so many cigarettes. And I question his ability to cook.

Do you think he still has that ability?
Oh, obviously. He does. Yes.

Well, because of the work you do in a restaurant, I picture you in the kitchen a little bit more than Anthony. If I take a few weeks off from cooking, things aren't quite as sharp as they used to be.
Yeah, that's why I only do eight to 10 shows a year.

Is that why you decided to go with PBS versus the Travel Channel or a more popular cable network?
We did that because at the time, we thought that was a good network to support the format of the show that we have, which is more contemplative -- we take our time and so on. We've now stopped Avec Eric and I'm doing a series called On the Table on YouTube where I basically interview my guests while we're cooking.

Yeah, I saw the episode where Mario Batalli parks his Vespa in your apartment.
Well, it looks like my apartment.

We've had a ton of chef changes here in Dallas -- enough that a newspaper ran a story on the instability of our kitchens. You've had the same executive chef in your kitchen for nearly two decades. How do you keep them?
By treating them well and with respect. By feeding them well, which may sound strange, but I think it is very important to give good food to your staff. And also by rewarding them financially and with benefits, so they have good compensation and they are happy. When you keep your staff happy they will stay with you.

How important is that permanence in turning out the best possible cuisine?
You can imagine when you have a manager in your dining room, or your chef du cuisine, or your saucier with you for 20 years. I mean, obviously they know the way I think, and they have even improved the system as a team with us. It's an enormous benefit to the restaurant to have people in place that are passionate and happy and who have the knowledge as well.

Do you think you could maintain a four-star rating for a long time if your staff turned over every couple of months?
No, It's impossible.

In an interview with Tim Carman at The Washington City Paper you said you felt that food critics were very relevant with respect to a growing presence of Yelp and blogs. Now that those two media have swelled even further, do you think that is still the case?

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