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Eric Ripert Drinks Tequila with Gail Simmons, Would Not Call His Chocolate Fixation an Obsession

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In the latest episode of Eric Ripert's new web series "On the Table" for Youtube’s Reserve Channel, the Le Bernardin chef and Top Chef vet Eric Ripert welcomes F&W's Gail Simmons for tequila Bloody Marys, fried eggs in Guinness cheese sauce and PG-13 chit chat about the real reasons Gail didn't become a ballerina. "Gail was very candid about personal stuff," says Ripert. "She's very outspoken and very honest. I was having a blast." Watch the clip above, and then read on for outtakes from our recent Facebook chat with Ripert, in which he discusses the new show, late-night snacks and his appearance at the upcoming Cayman Islands Cookout.

In your new series ‘On the Table,’ you cook and chat with amazing guests. What inspired you to start a web show?
Filming for my show Avec Eric during the Cayman Cookout inspired me to interview participating chefs. It gave me the idea to bring a guest into my kitchen, cook together and also get the opportunity to talk one-on-one.

What's one cool thing that you've learned from a guest on your show?
I do not drink cocktails in general—I'm more of a wine guy—but lately with the new cocktail craze, I'm enjoying many of them—in moderation of course! Until I interviewed Stanley Tucci, I had never tried a martini before and certainly didn't know how to make them. When Stanley came on the show he taught me how to make a damn good martini even though it was a bit early in the morning!

What are you most looking forward to at the Cayman Cookout in January?
It will be very cold in NYC so obviously blue skies and 85 degrees! But what I really enjoy about the Cayman Cookout is interacting with my chef-friends and the intimacy we have with the guests. Many of the activities are very unique and can be found only in Cayman such as going swimming with the stingrays then having a lunch on a beach with chefs grilling with their feet in the water.

What is your favorite Caribbean ingredient?
I have many, so in no specific order: coconut, curry, adobo, rum, spiny lobster, pineapple, ginger etc.

Aside from your own restaurant in the Caymans, Blue, what are some of your favorite spots to eat in the Caribbean?
You can eat very well in Barbados. My last great meal there was at The Cliff. St. Barth's, despite it's trendiness, has also a lot of good food. My favorite islands are of course the Cayman Islands but I also love Puerto Rico, which has influenced my cooking for more than 30 years. Puerto Rican cuisine is a melting pot of Spanish, Dutch and West Indies influence with some strong African ties that I find fascinating.

What are some great ways to improve your tasting and cooking skills with a limited budget?
You must, no matter what, buy unprocessed fresh food as much as you can. Reading magazines like Food & Wine can help you to be inspired to try seasonal recipes and new flavors. Also remember that some cuts of meat are very inexpensive and if you use the right techniques, like braising, you can get some amazing results with a small budget. For example, coq au vin was made in France with an old rooster that was certainly not edible except when it was cooked for hours with cheap red wine.

What is your most valued cooking tool?
Without a doubt my knives. Having sharp, great knives will enable you to cook very precisely. Knife skills are essential in cooking. If you want to flavor a dish with ginger, which is powerful, and the pieces of ginger are too big because of poor knife skills, you will completely overwhelm the other flavors in the dish.

What is your go-to late night snack?
It’s very rare that I come home hungry as I taste a lot of food at Le Bernardin. However, on very rare occasions, I will have a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a few slices of spicy chorizo.

What is your current food obsession?
I don't think I have an obsession, however I do eat chocolate every day.

How would you describe yourself in food terms?
I love Asian food, have a passion for French food, I eat Italian very often, I'm very influenced by South American flavors, I eat bagels and lox and burgers, etc. etc.—therefore, to answer your question, I'm a true New Yorker!

Related: Recipes from Eric Ripert
Caribbean Dishes
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