It was no wonder that the welcome for these two culinary stars might be confused for the band’s entrance at a rock concert.
For those who are not aware of their significance, Ripert is executive chef and part owner of the renowned restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City. His leadership has earned the restaurant a record number of four-star ratings from the New York Times, as well as a coveted three-star Michelin rating.
Bourdain’s stardom is not from his 28 years in the kitchen, but more from his memoirs and experiences that were recorded in his book Kitchen Confidential. He was able to parlay that success into the Emmy-award winning show No Reservations on the Travel Channel, where he visits places around the world, experiences the culture, learns the history, and most important, delves into the cuisine. Bourdain released his second set of essays, Medium Raw in 2010. Most recently, he has been employed writing and consulting for Treme.
Both men have a huge fan base, and each has done a great job of helping to promote the other. What makes this live appearance work is that these two are good friends. They know each other’s hot buttons, biases and loves. The show was simple, essentially a conversation between the two. They just varied the format to keep things interesting.
The format of the first act consisted of each one taking a turn being in the hot seat, where he was grilled by the other. Bourdain started the questioning by asking the zenlike Ripert, “What is your problem with Mr. Gordon Ramsay?” Ripert responded, “Personally, I have nothing against this gentleman, who is not a gentleman, actually. I think he is a good chef, but his show is shameful.” He went on to talk about how he thinks the show encourages intolerance in the workplace. He said it can be borderline racist in how immigrant workers are treated, and that this is not how he thinks a kitchen should be portrayed.
The high point of Ripert’s cross examination of Bourdain was when he asked, “How can you be comfortable on be a judge on Top Chef when all the contestants are better than you?” After a burst of laughter, Bourdain admitted to never being able to succeed on the show. He couldn’t be given “a vending machine and told that I have 20 minutes to create a 12-course menu using only contents from the machine.” However, he defends his status by using his cooking and traveling experiences to know when something is prepared well or not.
After the questioning sessions, Ripert and Bourdain sat down in two comfortable chairs, opened beverages, and allowed the audience to eavesdrop on their food conversation. The topics included sustainability, ethical dining and molecular gastronomy. The molecular gastronomy conversation was especially interesting because of Ripert’s outspokenness concerning the phenomenon. Ripert, known for being proactive in sustainable living and food, was noticeably negative toward the moment. He applauded the founders, but described the thousands of copycats as a “generation of monsters” as they began cooking for the technique.
After a brief intermission, they concluded the show by answering some questions that were posed to them via Twitter. Some of the questions became personal. One example was, “What is your junk-food obsession?” Bourdain admitted to his “unholy” craving for KFC macaroni and cheese. He talked about waiting to make sure the coast is clear, hiding under his hoodie, and running over to the nearest location. No matter how careful he is, there is always a person who seems to recognize him on his way out the door with bag in hand.
There were moments in the show when fans of Bourdain could predict his next story or analogy. To be fair, he has a lot of content out there in his books and television show. Ripert does not have the same amount of exposure, so his answers were more novel. Bourdain made up for it by having the stronger stage presence. He used his charisma and charm to allow Ripert to shine. What was most surprising was that despite having performed this routine for several months, the conversations seemed real and unrehearsed. I’m not sure when either one of them will be back in the area, but it is well worth attending to hear their stories and misadventures.
For those interested in seeing another food star in the near future, the Paramount Theater will be welcoming restaurateur and Top Chef celebrity Tom Colicchio in March. Tickets will go on sale in December.