Having always lived in the Phili area, just like any good citizen I have supported all things Phili; the cheesesteaks, the sports teams, brotherly love, and most recently the Phili restaurant scene. I guess my interest in cooking has peaked at the right time, because the restaurant scene is better than ever, and we are getting more and more recognition as a restaurant town. I will be the first person to rant about the great food here in Philadelphia and I am therefore very happy, as I'm sure you are, that legendary chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York will be opening a restaurant in the Ritz this May.
A few weeks ago, 1/22/08 to be exact, he had a press conference in the Ritz to discuss the restaurant, the chef etc. With the help of my loving mother I was able to maneuver my way into that press conference.
Yes, I WAS GOING TO MEET ERIC RIPERT!
I turned from excited to nervous. What would I say? Would he be just another asshole chef? Would he welcome my appreciation for him, or would he tell me to go do my homework? Well I was in the car and there was no turning back now. My stomach was filled with butterflies.
My mom and I arrived at the Ritz in the space where the restaurant would be. Significant changes had already been made. Chandeliers had been removed, the space had been outlined, and perhaps most notably, Chef Ripert had bought an apartment in the Ritz so that he would be able to oversee the restaurant's development, assuring us uneasy Philadelphians that there would be no lack of devotion on his part.
The director of the event immediately interrupted a few people to introduce me to Ripert, and I immediately became wrapped up in conversation. I shelled out a few of my pre-written questions, but these sounded unnatural and so I calmed myself down and determined to have a regular conversation. We talked about my interest for cooking, my recent meal at Le Bernardin, a passion for fish, the new restaurant and everything else about food. One thought prevailed in my mind however and it was Dude! this guy is awesome.
Yes, this guy is a four star chef and owns the best seafood restaurant in the country, however for the while we talked, I did not detect a hint of arrogance! The absence of such is rare in cooks much lower than him. He is extremely easy to talk to and his French accent (I wish I had one of those) was very Americanized and easy to decipher.
I was able to meet the future chef de cuisine of the new restaurant, Jen Carrol as well. Until you meet her you would never guess that she is a chef. She is tall, skinny, blond and she cooks. What could be better? She was also very easy to talk to, however most chefs have different personalities outside of the kitchen. I told her how I was left in awe after my meal at Le Bernardin and she responded by giving me her number and telling me that any time I was in town I could call her and come in and work!!! That was the highlight of the night. I tried to stay cool, calm and collected, however I felt like I was going to burst. I took deep breaths. Wow, the night's only just begun and I'm already scoring numbers.
I talked to some of the other press that were there before Chef Ripert made some announcements and introduced Jennifer to everyone.
It turns out Jen was actually from Philadelphia, and she had worked in Manayunk before moving to New York and working her way up to Sous Chef at Le Bernardin, where she worked for five years. She was one of four female cooks in a forty-cook kitchen.
Facts About the Restaurant
140 Seats in the dining room
80 bar and lounge seats
Emphasis on local ingredients.
Ripert wants to make this a Philadelphia restaurant. He doesn't want to bring concepts from other places.
"Quality ingredients, simple preparations"
Restaurant will be more casual and affordable than Le Bernardin.
Such a casual restaurant will juxtapose the elegance of the Ritz.
Restaurant Will Open in May
Ok and that's all! What a night! I had midterms the next day.