Former chef and current author/TV personality Bourdain appeared first, introducing Ripert and putting him on the spot - that spot being an uncomfortable metal folding chair with overhead spotlight à la CSI interrogation room. The two are clearly great friends, as the "ball-busting" seemed to know no bounds. In his beautiful accent, on Bourdain's whim, Ripert shared his opinions about Guy Fieri and Gordon Ramsay, and admitted, somewhat proudly, that yes, Snooki has dined at his famous restaurant, Le Bernadin. In one particularly uncomfortable part of the session that had him squirming in his seat, Bourdain forced him to describe the somewhat-sickening French tradition of trapping, plumping up, killing and eating ortolan. Google it if you dare (or read this helpful article). The hilarious twist to the tale? Bourdain was a willing participant at the same meal!
Shortly after that, the two switched seats, and while Ripert was not quite as "bad cop" as Bourdain, he got in several great digs. He started by asking exactly when was the last time he actually cooked in a professional kitchen, had him describe his history of drug abuse, and wondered aloud who does the cooking at the Bourdain home. (The answer? Other than breakfast, for their daugher "loves Daddy's omelets," Bourdain's Italian wife.). Ripert also teased him about selling out with The Taste. When asked if there was something he'd never want to eat again, Bourdain mentioned dining on pig's rectum in the African bush. But he also said he would do it again if he had to, comparing the experience to eating Butterball turkey and Stove-Top stuffing at his grandmother's house on Thanksgiving - when you're a guest at someone's table, it's simply good manners to eat what's offered to you.
When Ripert was done with his questioning, the two sunk into more comfortable chairs and popped open a couple of local (Hooker) brews. The familiarity and hilarity continued in this more casual manner for a while. The banter came easily, and there were plenty of laughs as the audience clearly enjoyed this glimpse into the minds of these two incredible personalities. Their secret food shames? Things they guiltily eat alone at 3 a.m.? Bourdain's seemed to be a tie between Cap'n Crunch and KFC's macaroni and cheese (when it never fails that someone takes his picture as he stealthily leaves with the tell-tale bag), whereas Ripert's was camembert and pate (Of course it is. He's French.) Thankfully, they allowed audience questions, and Chris was picked. He asked how they met and we were treated to the inside story that Kitchen Confidential was the first book Ripert read in English and since there were so many nice things about his restaurant in it, he invited Bourdain to lunch. The two have been great friends since, and Ripert even introduced Bourdain to his (now) wife. The final question? What place is the next big thing in food? Bourdain thinks Asia, in particular, Viet Nam, while Ripert decided on Scandinavia. Guess we'll find out.
After the show, we hurried upstairs to the after-party, where we dined on razor clams, scallop ceviche, lemon-thyme gnocchi, pastrami "short-ribs," PB&J cupcakes and more. The apps were as delicious as they looked, and the cupcakes? Gone. Enough said.
The chefs signed the books we had brought along with us and offered themselves for picture-taking until the line was gone. It was a fabulously fun night, and one we'll never forget!