Eric Ripert, Jacques Pepin Talk Abusive Chefs, Favorite Foods and the State of Fine Dining at Arsht Celebrity Chef Series

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Photo by Juan Monino
On stage at the Arsht Center: Jacques Pepin, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.
Jacques Pepin showed Eric Ripert a thing or two in a friendly cook-off at the Arsht Center Celebrity Chef series Friday night. With nine minutes to go on the 30-minute clock, Pepin, who found time to make dessert in addition to the two dishes he and Ripert were expected to prepare, proclaimed: "Do we have to wait until the end or can we start plating?"

After an introductory interview by Anthony Bourdain, the two French chefs were given a mystery basket with a whole chicken, a whole fish, fennel, asparagus, quinoa, cauliflower, oranges and a mango. Pepin, perhaps feeling as if he was in one of his TV shows, gave the play-by-play of everything he was doing, while a quieter (probably not by choice) Ripert looked focused. Both made chicken bouillabaisse as one of their dishes.

And while there was no winner in this cook-off, the audience got a good tease from the aromas coming out of the kitchen and a good laugh out of the chefs' candid answers to Bourdain's questions.

Continue reading for some sound bites:

Pepin on being a chef then vs. now...

"Any good mother would have wanted her child to marry an architect, a lawyer, not a cook. Now we're geniuses."

Ripert on working for Joel Robuchon ...

"I'm still traumatized."

"It was a very, very tough kitchen. He was considered a genius at the time and we were working there because he was a genius and we would accept any kind of abuse from him and he knew that."

Is fine dining dead?

Ripert: "Can you go see a concert of U2 and say opera, ballet and the philharmonic is dead?

... A lot of restaurants that are not upscale are doing very well. However, fine dining is very healthy and I don't see any signs of that aspect of the industry dying."

Pepin: "The day it dies people won't buy Mercedes, Lamborghini or any of those Porsches ..."

On Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen ...

Pepin:
"It's a parody of what people often think a chef should be ..."

Ripert: "I refuse the idea of glorifying abuse."

Favorite French comfort food...

Pepin: My mother's

Ripert: French fries

Food they'd eat in an eating contest ...

Pepin: Caviar

Ripert: Truffles

Least favorite food ...

Pepin: Marshmallows

Ripert: Brain

Favorite meal cooked by their wives ...

Pepin: "My wife was born in New York city from a Puerto Rican mother and a Cuban father. [Audience goes wild].

So arroz con pollo and some of the stuff she does with pork with black beans and all that."

Ripert: "My wife is Puerto Rican too. The last experiment was hard-boiled eggs in the microwave ... "

Ripert on favorite Miami restaurants ...

Casa Tua and Prime 112.

And finally, the quintessential question, if they were on death row what would be their last meal ...

Pepin: If I'm on death row I couldn't eat.

Bourdain: What do you drink?

Pepin: A bottle of scotch to make it easier.

Ripert: I'm not sure. A good bottle of Bordeaux and maybe something like a roasted chicken with wild mushrooms, something that lasts a long time.

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