Eric Ripert on overwhelming spices, friendship, and 'Kitchen Confidential'
Anthony Bourdain's friend and celebrity chef talks with BOTM
Prior to the release of Kitchen Confidential in 2000, an excerpt appeared in the New Yorker. The entire industry reacted'”either with entertained amusement or with shocked anger. When the article became the book, rumors were flying about the controversial exposes and I was told repeatedly that Le Bernardin was mentioned several times. So I read the book'”the first book I ever read in English'”and was certainly surprised: Anthony only had compliments for Le Bernardin'”we were one of the lucky few! The world he described, the unpolished-side of the kitchen filled with pirates and unsavory characters and their tattoos and taste for trouble, was eye-openingly different from the regimented, almost-militant kitchens of my own experience. I needed to know more'¦
I decided to call Anthony and invite him to lunch; we got along very well and a friendship began. It wasn't long before we'd spend evenings away from our restaurants in Anthony's favorite subterranean dive bars, listening to obscure punk music on old jukeboxes. These places were definitely out of my element, but it was worth the venture to learn more about the industry underbelly that he spoke of in Kitchen Confidential and gain a deeper insight into Anthony's personality. He is a widely intelligent man whose knowledge spans such a vast range of topics'”you see it often in his shows as he circles around the relationships between food and a region's political, social, and cultural development. The dude is smart. He also is deeply caring and has an unparalleled work ethic. When we have plans, I can never be late. Never. Anthony is always on time.
I have tremendous respect Anthony. We are very different in our ways of thinking but have found an almost 'œGood & Evil' balance in our relationship, even collaborating on a chocolate bar of that name. Whenever he invites me on his show, it doesn't take long before we just ignore the cameras and have the same fun we always do. He still continues to find new ways to pull me out of my comfort zone, whether with alcohol indigenous to a town I've never heard of in a country I've never been, or noodles laced with spices so hot it takes me days to recover. Despite his time away traveling, despite our differences, despite being often mistaken for him on the street, it is a very genuine friendship that I am very grateful to have.