A La Carte
10:51 PM EDT, May 3, 2013
The title of the show, "Good vs. Evil," seemed fitting enough. TV personality, author and former chef Anthony Bourdain is known for his biting, caustic and often profane wit; French chef and culinary star Eric Ripert is stylish and urbane with a mellifluous accent.
But Ripert landed plenty of his own jabs as the two sparred onstage at the Bushnell Friday, in a back-and-forth exchange lit and staged as an interrogation. The Frenchman took the hot seat in the beginning of the show, gamely answering Bourdain's pointed questions about his feelings on Gordon Ramsay and Guy Fieri, and his experiences serving controversial politicians Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and "Jersey Shore" stars The Situation and Snooki at his exclusive New York restaurant Le Bernardin.
"Is there anyone on this whole earth whose behavior is so awful and abhorrent as to deny them a table at Le Bernardin?" Bourdain asked.
"One person - John McEnroe," Ripert replied, referring to a 2003 incident where McEnroe filled in for an ailing David Letterman and insulted Ripert with anti-French sentiments during his guest appearance.
Bourdain laid on the guilt trip while asking Ripert to describe the grotesque preparation of the delicacy ortolan (a songbird captured, fattened and drowned in Armagnac then roasted whole.) "I ate this with you," Ripert protested.
Bourdain and Ripert have been friends for years and it showed in their easy repartee. As Bourdain took his place in the spotlight, Ripert nailed him on his years away from the kitchen, his history of drug use, his very public denouncement of Paula Deen ("In what [expletive] way is a double cheeseburger, bacon and egg between two Krispy Kreme doughnuts [expletive] traditional Southern food?") and his "sellout" stint on ABC's "The Taste."
"Everything people love about you and 'Kitchen Confidential' is gone!" Ripert teased. "Basically, your boss is Mickey Mouse."
"Who hates Mickey Mouse, except the French?" Bourdain shot back. "Maybe I don't have to wait in line at Disneyland now, and my 6-year-old daughter will think I'm the best daddy in the world."
In a more informal wrap to the evening, the two moved to armchairs, cracked local Thomas Hooker beers and asked each other open-ended questions. "Which three chefs would you bring to a deserted island?" The two agreed on Joël Robuchon. "How would you use marijuana in a recipe at Le Bernardin, if it were legal?" Souffle, Ripert decided. "What would be your porn name?" Bourdain collapsed into giggles. "Mine's really bad. Poochie Orchard."
Guilty pleasure food? "Camembert and pâté," Ripert answered, to the American's incredulous scorn. Bourdain admitted to late-night cravings for Crunchberry cereal and KFC's macaroni and cheese, which he tries to buy surreptitiously until "always, I'm halfway out the door and someone says, 'Oh, Anthony Bourdain, you're awesome.' Then they take a picture and tweet it."
"Why do people take pictures of their food? Bourdain asked during a discussion of "hipsters." "You're not sharing. You want to put it up on Instagram so other people will feel bad about what they're eating."
An audience Q&A session covered exotic travel; the ethics of food, including the use of genetically modified organisms and "Bizarre Foods" host Andrew Zimmern. "He doesn't drink," Bourdain said of the Travel Channel personality. "If you're spending your days eating a plate of [genitalia,] alcohol helps."
As for stops in Hartford? "I went to Max," Ripert said (Max Downtown, the restaurant group confirmed) but Bourdain wasn't as pampered. "We pulled in late. I had a couple of Pringles out of the minibar."