Just a Fan

Eric Ripert isn't a judge this season, but he is ready to comment on the All-Stars.

Full transcript after the jump!Hello, I am Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin, and I am commenting on All-Stars New York season of Top Chef Episode 1. Since last season, I have been finishing my TV series Avec Eric on PBS. It's airing right now, all around the country. I have been promoting my new cookbook, Avec Eric, and I'm taking care of Le Bernardin, visiting my places in the Cayman Islands, Philadelphia, and Washington. It keeps me very busy.

So this season I have the luxury of being a fan and not a judge. Jennifer Carroll works with us, she is our chef in Philadelphia, and therefore I cannot judge. It would be very unfair for the other candidates and maybe even for Jenny. So I am watching it and enjoying it so far.

The first episode was very exciting. There are some great cooks, amazing personalities as we know, and I am almost jealous that I am not going to be with them during the season. But at the same time I have a different way of seeing the show, and it's definitely entertaining.

Well of course Jen is our chef, and we wish her the very best. But many of them are really great cooks, and they're doing very well in their restaurants and have proven in the past that they are great cooks, so I don't really have a favorite. I'm waiting to see what's going to happen. Last season in Singapore Angelo got sick in the finale. He maybe could have done better, we don't know. So he's back, I'm glad to see him back. Jen is one of my favorites. I don't want to say too many names. We'll see how it goes.

In the Quickfire, I think Michael Isabella and Jenny did pretty well. It was well thought out, the Las Vegas kind of Mafia, Italian influenced menu that they did. It looked pretty good. I haven't tasted it, so I don't know how it was, but I trust the fact that they did a good job in terms of flavors. Chicago won and they're dish looked pretty good. I liked the idea of the mustard ice cream, it was a good twist, something interesting.

Marcel was paired with Elia, and I thought they did something interesting with the shrimp and the guacamole and the apple taco. It looks like they didn't taste their food. That was very unfortunate, because Tom I think told them it was bland, but that could have been a winner.

So Jamie didn't really want to work with the group. She was very individualistic in her approach, and she did a good soup I think. Tom liked that soup a lot. However that dish became very disconnected. I think it's a shame, because I think if they had worked as a group, they could have made it work better and maybe won the Quickfire.

Interesting Quickfire, interesting reunion. I like the conviviality of the group right now. As we know, it's going to disintegrate very soon. Right now everything's fine.

The Elimination Challenge is very clever, and they have to do something very painful, which is to use the ingredients or the recipe that sent them home. On top of it while they are cooking, part of the group is eating and criticizing them, and that is definitely setting the tone. We are starting to see some harsh criticism. We are starting to see some very emotional reactions. As a viewer it is very enjoyable obviously, but obviously being there must be nerve racking. Elia didn't want to hear what was going on on the TV. I don't know why, she seems to be very sensitive about criticism. She seems to be very defensive when someone talks about her food, and I remember myself judging one episode in the Los Angeles season where she was also very defensive on my comments. And she seems to be the same, nothing has changed. Fabio was very sensitive about the criticism of Anthony of his dish. And he was very animated and very critical and attacked Anthony. He basically blamed him for making fun of him and criticizing his dish without being constructive. Anthony, you cannot do that! You have to be a nice gentleman. In Washington, Anthony was making fun of me because supposedly I was the evil man and he decided to be very nice, so, Anthony, I'm giving it back to you. Be careful! But I think Anthony was right about the criticism of the presentation. As a viewer, the pasta didn't look good. The fact that it was on paper … Why was it on paper? It doesn't help, it doesn't do anything to it. And I would say, Fabio, watch out, because Anthony is married to an Italian lady and she knows her pasta and Anthony knows his pasta now.

Stephen was all over the place. He had a lot of dishes to prepare, and he was not ready, and he almost didn't make it actually. I think it's a miracle he was selected to go to the next episode. He very well could have been eliminated by not being focused and not being ready on time.

So Richard did a good job. The dish seems to be fantastic, it looks fantastic. I liked the technique that he was using also. But he didn't plate on time and therefore was disqualified. It's the rules of Top Chef, you have to be ready when it's time, exactly like if it's a restaurant. You have to be ready when the clients want to eat. He lost an opportunity to win, but I think we will se a lot of successful dishes coming from him.

So Jamie was eliminated at Le Bernardin with the black bass, the braised celery, and the Serrano ham sauce. And she hated our dish, and I respect that very much, some people don't like certain dishes. It happens in every restaurant. We are probably not her style. I'm happy that Jamie has mastered many of the skills that she didn't have before, because I recall seeing Jamie struggling at Le Bernardin filleting fish. She didn't know how to filet a black bass, and she spent most of her time filleting the fish. That day she actually burned the sauce at Le Bernardin, and there was black smoke coming out of the pan. This time she seems to have mastered the sauce, so that's definitely an improvement. And as for the braised celery, which was absolutely inedible because of the salt content, she seems to have found a way finally to braise celery and make it acceptable. I congratulate Jamie and wish her a great season. I see that her knife skills have been improved, although we have to see for the rest of the season how much she has improved those knife skills.

So Angelo won, and he did one of the dishes that I actually tried in Singapore during the finally. That dish was actually pretty good in Singapore. I guess he perfected it and made it even better, and therefore he won that challenge.

Elia went home and her fish was raw. It's a no-no. You cannot send raw fish to anyone. She did not think about tasting the dish. It is very surprising, because if you do not think about tasting your food as a chef, how can you know if it's going to taste good or not for your clients? It's very sad to see her go so early, she's obviously very sad and humiliated by that. But someone has to go, and I think if she did the worst job, which is to serve raw fish when it's supposed to be cooked, she deserved to go home.

I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin, and I was commenting on Episode 1 of Top Chef All-Stars season in NY. Next week I will be commenting on Episode 2. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I would be happy to answer them.

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