Talking Food Critics, Ethnic Influence and Chef Instability in Dallas with Eric Ripert
Yes, absolutely. We can see it in New York, all the way to Philadelphia, people go to The New York Times because [Pete Wells] is knowledgeable, he has the budget, and he goes to restaurants. Obviously he's an opinion and just one person, but he has tremendous credibility in New York. And he's not the only one. You know we have a couple of food critics.
The food critic is definitely a reference because Yelp is basically full of people complaining. We have to take into consideration some of the comments, but very often it's not even rational what they say.
Reviewing your restaurant has become a rite of passage for NY Times food critics. Do you have a favorite review from the past 20 years?
They are all very important. The latest is Pete Wells, but they're all important to us. When you run a luxury restaurant it is vital to have four stars. If we lose a star, we would be in danger of being financially insecure because of the investments we make with the staff, with the china -- with everything. We need to keep the prices where we are and we need that kind of support.
Pete Wells didn't like his Dover sole in his review, referring to a red wine and cassis sauce the color of grape chewing gum. How did you feel when you read that?
Look! I mean -- he had his opinion. I thought the dish was good, obviously, or I would not have put it on the menu. When I read the review I actually took the dish out and we worked on another dish. I took his criticism seriously, yeah. (pauses)
He said it was the color of grape chewing gum. It was a red wine sauce, so it was a red, slightly pinkish sauce, OK. So maybe the description was a bit harsh, so it was not his favorite dish, obviously. And potentially not the favorite dish of our clients so I figure, let's take it out. Why bother?
Looking forward to eating anything specific while you're in Texas?
I heard there is a large Vietnamese community there, so I'd like to try that. And in Houston I have a friend, Philip Schmidt, and we are going to try and stop at a couple of restaurants but I am not very familiar with the food scene in Fort Worth or Houston.
Do you think a strong ethnic culture and restaurant scene is imperative to developing a strong mainstream or popular dining scene?
No doubt. For sure. Every culture brings its own ingredients and techniques and flavors and so on and then there's a relationship between chefs and clients who are close to different cuisines. It's not gimmicky. It's a natural fusion.
French restaurants today aren't only French. It's French in the sense that it maintains a certain tradition of hospitality and definitely of technique, but you may very well be using Japanese ingredients.
Not everyone has a travel budget that can whisk them away to Southeast Asia with a camera team in tow. How would you look for inspiration if you were confined to your hometown?
Oh, it's easy in New York City. In New York, depending on which area you go, the food is completely different. I mean you have Chinatown and its Asian influence. You have Koreatown. You have a huge Latino influence as well. You have Ethiopian influence, here. If you go Uptown, Downtown, East Side, West Side you get very different experiences.
Do you do a lot of eating around New York looking for ideas?
I don't know if it's a lot, but I do it twice a week.
I'm getting hungry myself. Thanks for your time, chef, and good luck with your dinner service tonight.
Yeah, I need some. (laughs)
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