Either/Or: Eric Ripert

We caught up with the celebrity chef at Westend Bistro and talked nicknames, lobster-killing, and reincarnation.

Don’t call Eric Ripert a Silver Fox. Photograph by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg.

Celebrity chef Eric Ripert is known for his million-dollar smile, and a bidder at last year’s Capitol Food Fight was willing to shell out $10,000 for his presence at a dinner held yesterday (the money went to DC Central Kitchen). The Avec Eric star’s last trip to Washington—where he oversees Westend Bistro in the downtown DC Ritz-Carlton—involved a whirlwind dining tour with stops at the Source, Graffiato, Zaytinya, Citronelle, and Georgetown stalwart Bistro Francais (“It has this authentic feeling, like it has a soul.”), but don’t expect too many Ripert-sightings this time around; minus a stroll or two in Georgetown, Ripert says this trip is all business.

We caught up with Ripert as he was taking a break from kitchen rounds. Still wearing a crisp white chef’s coat that bears the name of his New York flagship, Le Bernardin—and his signature string of Tibetan prayer beads—he submitted to our Either/Or questionnaire.

Half-smoke or New York City dirty-water dog?
“Half-smoke—I’ve been to Ben’s.”

Who would you press the mute button on—Gordon Ramsey or Elia Aboumrad?
“Can I have a wild card for that?  I don’t wish anyone something bad like that. But if I’m watching TV, Gordon is out.”

The best way to kill a lobster—steaming or knife through the head?
“A 20-inch chef knife.”

Nickname of choice: the Ripper or the Silver Fox?
“I prefer the Ripper, because the Silver Fox was the nickname of Barbara Bush when she was in the White House.”

Gail Simmons or Gael Greene?
“Gail Simmons. [Gael Greene] is definitely a tough critic.”

Moules frites or steak frites?
“Steak frites on the weekend, moules frites during the week.”
Spike Mendelsohn or Mike Isabella?
“I haven’t tried Spike’s restaurant, so I’ll take Mike. I went to Graffiato last time, it was in the second day of opening. He sent me a table of food like that [gestures the length of the table]. The pizza with duck egg and truffle was fantastic.”

Cupcakes or normal-sized cakes?
“No cupcakes!”

Jacques Pepin or Julia Child?
“They can’t go without being together! Jacques and Julia.”

Vespa or Harley?
“Vespa. I’m lazy, I don’t want to carry that beast.”

Champagne or Chateau Margaux?
“Margaux—that’s easy.”

Bluefin Tuna or Beluga Caviar?
“Bluefin, because we just realized that the bluefin tuna in America is sustainable. It’s recovered on the coast, so bluefin for the flavor and sustainability. Beluga, unfortunately, is [hand diving motion] in the tank.”

In another life: world-renowned DJ or Buddhist monk?
“Buddhist monk, deejaying.”

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.