Avec Eric Episode One: 'Big Flavor' [review, video]
Sunday afternoon public television aired the premiere episode of Avec Eric, a "creative journey" with famed chef Eric Ripert. It's clear he's trying to break from the stereotype of being the "fish guy" — there wasn't even a single fish in the entire episode. And we can't be 100% sure of it, but we'd hazard to guess that this is the first PBS cooking program ever with dirty language bleeped out: After tasting a wild boar ragu at Villa Bordoni in Tuscany, Ripert said, "This is real cuisine, no bullshit here." If anything, we would have liked the show to have been an hour long — the time constraints of the half-hour format (even without commercials) made it feel a little rushed — but still, the show is totally worth watching.
The episode, called "Big Flavor," was comprised of three parts: The first, a visit to Le Bernardin's kitchen and a few minutes with Vincent Robinson, the saucier who's been at that position for 22 years. The second, Ripert wild boar-hunting in Tuscany until a violent rainstorm hits and they have to abandon the chase. Finally, the third part has Ripert back in New York, cooking a dish inspired by his experiences in Italy.
And no fish! In the cooking segment, he cooks a pork loin. The technique is there, but it's an accessible, rustic dish, intentionally lacking the four-star refinement that he's characteristically known for — the recipe calls for unpeeled garlic cloves, that when roasted should be left unpeeled, so you have to tear the roasted garlic cloves out from the paper using your teeth. (He likes it that way.)
Earlier in the episode, Ripert explained how life experience informs his cooking, channeling his inner philosopher-chef:
I'm living this experience, it's definitely going to be changing something later on in my creativity. Right now I'm kind of a sponge. I'm absorbing the culture, I'm absorbing the lighting, the ingredients. I'm just enjoying it. I know that somewhere, and I don't know when, in terms of cooking, it will come back into a recipe in a certain way. I cannot really define how the light and the sky ends up in a plate, but it's just all those experiences in life that I accumulate definitely give me, maybe we can call that a "cooking wisdom." It has been an evolution in the way I cook, because of those experiences like that.
Avec Eric is about food, but it's also about the facets of the man: Eric Ripert the four-star chef, the leader of craftsmen, the hunter, the thinker. At times humble, other times witty, he's unafraid to swear when moved to do so. But what struck us most was Eric Ripert's uncanny ability to conjure up rainbows (see the photo above). Possibly a case of perfect timing, we can somehow imagine that Eric Ripert's mere presence can summon rainbows into existence. Eric Ripert could very well be The Most Interesting Man In the World.
Here are a bunch of video clips:
Video: Avec Eric Intro
Video: Avec Eric: Saucier Vincent Robinson
Video: Avec Eric: Hunting
Video: Avec Eric: Philosophy and Swearing