Eric Ripert’s popular series Avec Eric is currently in its second successful season and now fans can relive their favorite moments with the companion cookbook, also called Avec Eric. A cross between a captain’s log and a cookbook, Avec Eric is is a must-have for fans of this inquisitive chef’s culinary adventures. He sat down to share his thoughts on this new release.
Obviously, travel is a central theme in Avec Eric. I imagine, as for other professionals, travel can be a luxury for a chef/restaurateur. How important is it for you to get out from behind the line and go into the world to experience food as a diner/tourist/etc.?
For me, travel is a huge source of inspiration, and so it is no question that I must get out and visit new places or I will start to feel burned out. I am very lucky to be able to travel every year. Creativity is something that you cannot turn on and off, and so sometimes I may see something out on the road and one day many years later, it will show up in some way or another in my food. So, I feel it’s important for me to constantly see and taste and try new things.
I loved your remarks in the book’s introduction about New York City and the plethora of ingredients we have available. It was almost counterintuitive as, thanks to our wonderful network of Greenmarket, people feel more connected to their food sources in NYC. But your point is very valid. What is it about going to the actual source that is so important?
I think that in New York it is easy to get very disconnected from the source, and you can start to view food as simply a commodity and start to forget that there are many hands behind each item that are responsible for bringing it to our markets. So for me, when I travel and I get to meet producers and I get to visit farms and other areas of production, in a very basic way, it really wakes me up and reminds me to respect the ingredients we are so lucky to be working with every day.
You also write, “I place food at the center of our humanity.” This reminds me of the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Harvard Anthropologist Richard Wrangham and Michael Ruhlman’s remarks supporting that thesis. How has food contributed to our humanity, in your opinion?
Food to me is, very simply, what brings people together. It has been important in my life since I was a small child. My earliest memories are of being in the kitchen with my grandmothers and mother eating and tasting the food they were cooking. Food is what binds us.
A few already have! In Tuscany we tasted a dolce forte sauce while hunting wild boar and we used a variation of that to enhance a sauce we already had on the menu with a duck breast. Also fromTuscany, our trip to Fonterutoli inspired a snapper tartare using crushed olives and extra virgin olive oil, we did a similar dish here using local striped bass; and our trip to California inspired the crab-stuffed zucchini flowers which we also used a variation of on the menu at Le Bernardin.
Is there anywhere in the world you haven’t yet visited that you’d like to, in terms of exploring its food culture?
I have been to Japan once, but I cannot wait to go back. I also want to go to Vietnam and Cambodia. I am excited to travel anywhere and everywhere.