Author's note: For this week's Cook the Book column we're featuring Avec Eric, Eric Ripert's newly released companion cookbook featuring his PBS series. We sat down with Eric to talk about his show, travels, and Thanksgiving plans. —The Mgmt.
You get to travel to some pretty incredible places to film Avec Eric, tell us about your favorite episode: I don't have a favorite episode. All of them have been tremendously inspirational in different ways.
Who are some of your favorite chefs and home cooks that you've worked with on Avec Eric? I cannot single out one chef. They have all been amazingly welcoming. I know many for a long time—they are all incredibly talented with their own styles. The home cooks opened their doors to me and again, every one of them was sharing something special with me.
You're a pretty busy guy; when you aren't filming Avec Eric, judging Top Chef, or at one of your restaurants do you have time to cook at home? What do you like to cook for your family? I cook at home every weekend and the fact that I eat fish every day at Le Bernardin during the week makes me crave steak on the weekends. In the winter I like to cook a lot of stews.
In Avec Eric you describe cooking as a holistic process, can you explain this philosophy for us? For sure. Inspiration comes from the source of the ingredients which come from different regions, during different seasons. Cooking is a way of connecting with the cycle of life. It's also a very pleasurable experience, and what is better than to share that with others?
Avec Eric seems to be very much about your search for meaningful food experiences. What are some that have helped shape you as a chef? Growing up in the south of France, being exposed to my Italian and Provençal grandmothers, spending time with my aunts, and of course, cooking with my mom were very powerful experiences as a young child. And at a very young age, I developed a passion for eating that evolved into a passion for cooking as well. Then I worked in culinary school, moved to Paris to work in La Tour d'Argent and from there never stopped cooking in professional kitchens.
And now for a few Thanksgiving questions. Where are you going to be spending the holiday this year? I'm going to St. Barths and plan to spend my entire day on the beach building sandcastles with my son.
What's on the menu? Spiny lobster for sure.
Tell us about your first Thanksgiving in the U.S. My first was in Washington, D.C. at a friend's house—I didn't really understand the dynamic of Thanksgiving because I didn't speak English at the time. However, I was appreciative of their hospitality and found their food highly exotic—pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce are the first time very surprising for a European. And let's not forget sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows!
What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? The idea is to be with family and friends and to share great food but it's all about conviviality and being together.
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