Eric Ripert

Resident Frenchman, Eric Ripert, discusses his issue with the Quickfire, and why Fabio is wrong about the winning dish.

on Feb 2, 2011

I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin commenting on Top Chef episode 8 New York Season: All-Stars.

The elimination challenge is at Rao's, and Rao's is a fantastic place. It's a legendary restaurant in New York. And as they explain in the show, you cannot really call and get a table. The tables are bought for life through generations, and every Wednesday of every month, you can go to Rao's. Or every, or if you go every week, it's every week. If you want to eat everyday it's everyday. You have to honor your word and go to the place, if not you lose the privilege of eating at Rao's.

I have been invited to Rao’s. It's really an experience. I think as Lorraine Bracco says you never forget your first experience at Rao's. I totally agree. It's something very very unique and special. It's one of those rare moments that you enjoy when you are there. So the contestants are very lucky to be welcome at Rao's.

I'm a French chef so what do I know about Italian food? However, actually, my grandmother is Italian, and I have been sharing many meals with my Italian side of the family. But I think, Italian food is about great quality ingredients, prepared in a simple manner, with some love. And it’s very homey and rewarding in terms of flavors. When you eat Italian, it's simple but it has this great effect on you, like it makes you happy.

It's perfect cooking for entertaining good friends, for having a family reunion, and the challenge was about that actually.

Mike Isabella despite the fact that he put a lot of effort in making his own pasta, served it raw. And that puts you in the bottom. And I think in his mind he was thinking "I'm going home and shame on me because I'm American Italian". He got lucky that some dishes were worse than his.

Dale didn't really impress anyone, and like Lorraine said, to make pancetta bland in terms of flavor, it's really hard to do that. So Dale could have been the one going home.

And then Tre did that risotto, didn’t really take care of his risotto. On top of it, lost the idea of making a risotto. And a risotto is paying homage to the rice. He had all those vegetables on top of it. It looked like the rice was not cooked properly from what I understood. With something like that, with those mistakes, you deserve to go home as well. And in this case, it was Tre going home.

So Fabio, being Italian, couldn't let anyone win this challenge. He had to beat this challenge. I think he was already selling himself to Mr. Pellegrino, in the beginning, by explaining what he was going to do, and relating to Rao's in some aspect, and they they had this long discussion, and the other contestants stopped the discussion.

And then he went into the chicken cachetorie, and did it. I think he did a good dish. Unfortunately for Fabio, Antonia seems to have done something better than his dish. And therefore Antonia ended up winning the challenge with something that looks simple.

And in the stew room, where they are waiting and discussing, some of the contestants don't really understand what is Italian food. It's about great simple ingredients, cooked simply but with love that have great flavors. And Antonia really did a good job, and she won so. Fabio was maybe very close, but too bad Fabio.

So Tiffany made a polenta terrine, which seems to be original, and looking at it from the viewer point of view, it looks very appealing and I would love to try. And then the minestrone was also a great idea that Carla cooked. I love minestrone. She could have been very well competing at the very top with Antonia. I think maybe it was a close up. Anyway Antonia is the winner this time.

So Fabio thinks that Mussels and white wine is a French dish. You know in France we would have probably put some crème fraiche in it, and have made it a French dish. But Italy, you can eat mussels and white wine is definitely part of the Italian cooking. Actually even crème fraiche and butter is part of Italian cooking when you eat in the Northern party of Italy. It's not only olive oil and garlic. Italy has a lot of different regions, and I think it was an unfair comment from Fabio.

I am Eric Ripert, I was commenting on Top Chef Season 8 in New York, All-Stars.