Eric Ripert shares his favorite NYC restaurant, where he goes to dine, and how he created the Caribbean’s most iconic food festival

The celebrity chef tells T+L about his travel routine, how trying new cuisines is the key to exploring a new place, and much more.

<p>Courtesy of Eric Ripert</p>
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Eric Ripert was only 5 years old when he realized he wanted to be a chef.

Today, he is a world-renowned culinary icon with a 4-star Michelin restaurant, the author of six cookbooks, and has received numerous accolades, since being named “Best Chef in New York” by the James Beard Foundation and has won daytime Emmy Awards. .

But the fame that comes from doing what he loves is just a bonus, he said. Travel + Leisure.

“I wanted to be a chef in a fine dining restaurant – to have the best equipment, the best ingredients, a great team around me, to create food and an experience for the customers – my whole life,” he said. declared.

Manhattan-based Ripert runs the Michelin-awarded French restaurant Le Bernardin, but when he’s not dining at his Midtown restaurant, he’s exploring New York’s robust culinary scene.

“The beauty of New York is we have so many options and there are so many new restaurants opening,” Ripert said. “I always try to go to a new restaurant, then stay home one night, then go to another friend’s restaurant.”

Ripert, who by his profession is uniquely positioned to identify New York City’s ever-evolving dining scene, told T+L he’s excited about the growing trend of small counter-service restaurants that can seat 20 people or less.

“There are a lot of little restaurants like that opening, and the food is pretty good and it’s really inspiring,” he said. “Atomix is ​​an example.”

Chef Éric Ripert

What’s your favorite restaurant to go to on a night off?
Balthazar. I go there every two weeks for lunch.
What is the #1 meal a first-time visitor to France should have?
Croissant. (More specifically, he likes to go to a deli to buy a baguette and make his own sandwiches.)
What is a restaurant red flag to you?

I am very sensitive to cleanliness – and cleanliness is not only visual, but also olfactory. If I go to a place and it doesn’t look very nice and it’s a little dirty and there’s a smell, I don’t go there. I don’t even do the bathroom test.
How do you pass time on a plane?

A long flight or a short flight, when I fly, the idea is to sleep as much as possible. I like to vegetate. I don’t read, I don’t touch my phone (not even emails), I don’t do anything. I’m just enjoying the moment when I’m disconnected from the world.

What’s the one thing you can’t travel without?

There’s nothing I can’t travel without, but I always travel with a Buddha that I set up in my hotel room.

However, 1,400 miles away, the celebrity chef explores the Cayman Islands and sets up shop at the Cayman Cookout, a culinary event held at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman, bringing together some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs and passionate guests every January.

Ripert said the idea came to him one evening about 18 years ago over champagne at the hotel, while discussing the beauty of the island in January and the quietness of the hotel afterwards. holidays.

The answer? A food and wine festival.

When it started in 2007, it was a 3 day affair. However, by 2024, the Cayman Cookout had become a five-day celebration. “We started very small,” Ripert told us at this year’s festival.

“It was Anthony Bourdain, myself, José Andrés and two or three chefs – and that’s it,” he added. “A few events and a few dinners. Today, as we know, it has increased a lot and there is a lot of national talent.”

Fast forward to 2024 and the lineup included chefs such as James Kent, Kristen Kish, Angie Mar, Emeril Lagasse, Enrique Olvera, Kwame Onwuachi, Antonio Bachour and Andrew Zimmern.

<p>Courtesy of Eric Ripert</p>
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Ripert is now in its 15th year and has created an event so special that many guests are regulars who return year after year. (Even new participants told T+L they’d be back.)

“I’m happy people are coming back, it’s a compliment,” said Ripert, who attributes this phenomenon to a number of variables: the event is intimate, it’s at a stunning luxury property and the weather is flawless. “I think what also brings people back is that they have huge options in front of them.”

This year’s events included a humorous paella demonstration from Andrés, a lunch of Mexican dishes from Olivera, deep sea fishing with Lagasse., a private jet trip to Jamaica’s Golden Eye Resort for a traditional meal with Ripert and a beach barbecue with dishes from all the chefs.

Additionally, Ripert’s presence on the island goes beyond the annual barbecue and is somewhat permanent, as he owns a restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert, at the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman.

Marc Langevin, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, told T+L that Ripert essentially “created the Cayman Islands dining scene” when he opened Blue in 2005.

“When we put Eric Ripert’s name here, we proclaimed ourselves the culinary capital of the Caribbean, but that’s no longer a question,” Langevin said of the Blue’s impact on the Caribbean’s dining scene. island.

Beyond the Cayman Islands, Ripert is quick to point out the role food plays when visiting a new place.

“The gastronomy of a region tells a story,” he says. “So we’re no longer traveling just to see the monuments, but we’re going to live a lifestyle and an experience and understand the culture through the culinary experience.”

One of the key players in making food a central part of the travel experience, according to Ripert, is the Michelin Guide, explaining that decades ago “were the pioneers” who got people “to travel around the world”.

Ripert also thanked his late friend Bourdain for allowing travelers to get out of their hotels and embark on a culinary adventure.

“When you think about it, Anthony Bourdain did a great job because he was in your living room and taking you to a destination,” Ripert said. “He always said the best way to understand a culture was through food.”

As for his favorite food cities, he shared that his best two are on different continents.

“Of course, I love Paris, I am partial to it since I am French,” he said. “But Tokyo is a very, very special city when it comes to food. I love going there once a year and it’s one of my favorite destinations.”

However, he gave special mention to Los Angeles as an underrated destination due to its “incredible Japanese cuisine.”

But whether it’s people traveling to a new city, the Cayman Cookout or customers at his restaurants, Ripert wants people to have “a good time right now” and “disconnect from their world.”

“If we can give them something that takes their minds off their lives, then we’re happy,” he said.

You can reserve your place at Cayman Cookout 2025 here.

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