Superchef Eric Ripert announced he was ending his relationship with 10 Arts last week, which was somewhat of a surprise to the Philly food universe. Eater Philly heard chatter over the summer that this break-up was coming, but when Ripert's last visit came and went without an announcement, the rumors were put to bed. But, when news broke that Ripert was pulling out of his Westend Bistro in D.C., the talk started up again that it was only a matter of time before Philly heard the same news. Sure enough, it happened the next day.
Eater caught up with Chef Ripert to ask him what was behind the break up, and whether or not the exit of popular Philly chef Jen Carroll contributed to his decision. Ripert also talked about his future restaurant plans, Top Chef, and where he likes to eat when he visits Philadelphia.
We heard rumors you were leaving 10 Arts over the summer. How long was this break-up planned?
Well, our contract was up over the summer, and we didn't renew it. So, we knew back then that it was happening, but we're going to still be involved until the year is done, so we didn't feel the need to announce it that far ahead.
It seemed like the relationship was going well. What was the reasoning behind ending the partnership?
Yes, I really loved working with the Ritz-Carlton, but I have another project coming up that needed my full attention and support. I hated to do it, but it was necessary.
Can you talk about the new project?
I wish I could. It's about 95% done, but nothing is definitely signed, so I am not allowed to. But, it's exciting for me, and it requires a lot of time.
Is it going to be in New York?
Hmmm, well I can't confirm anything. Once it is signed I will give you all of the information. But, you know how it is with contracts. I wish I could just say it and get the word out because it's exciting.
Since Jen Carroll left 10 Arts, there haven't been a lot of press releases or info coming from the restaurant. Has business suffered, and did her leaving have anything to do with your decision not to renew?
Not at all. In fact, they've had a pretty good year, actually. They're doing well, and we're still seeing a steady mix of tourists and locals, and strong business. Jennifer and I still talk often, in fact, she called me last weekend to make sure I was OK! (laughing). But, Jennifer and I still have a very good relationship, and I wish her success in her restaurant here in New York.
Jen Carroll has a lot of fans in Philly, and we felt that she was a great representative for the city when she was on Top Chef. Do you feel she was integral to the success of 10 Arts?
Yes, for sure. Business was actually pretty slow at first while we were figuring things out at 10 Arts. But, then Top Chef happened, and Jennifer was successful on the show, and it translated to success at 10 Arts, definitely. I really had a personal relationship with 10 Arts, and had a closeness with the restaurant and the staff. I got pretty emotional when I had to say goodbye.
The look and design of the restaurant is so unique, and the grandeur of the room is impressive. It always reminded me of this restaurant in Sweden that had been successful for decades, so it was a favorite of mine. So, I'm sad I am not involved with it anymore.
Speaking of Top Chef, you've been a big part of the show. Will we see you this season?
Is the season over yet?
Well, you know how it is, I really can't talk about it. They make us sign all kinds of documents and we're not allowed to speak about it.
Top Chef hasn't really had the same juice it had with the local crowd since Kevin Sbraga won. We were interested when it first started, and of course when Jen and Kevin were competing. Do you feel that the show has gone downhill?
I don't know about that, but it has definitely changed. Someone should really look at the show in the beginning and look at it now, and see how it's different, since it's been on awhile now.
Where do you like to eat when you're in Philly?
Oh, that's a tough question, because I have been here many times. I went to Amada a few times and probably most of the Stephen Starr restaurants. Maybe not to eat at all of them, but at least for drinks. Oh, I really love Zahav. Wonderful place. And, I don't know if it's around still, but I really loved the times I went to Rouge.
It's still around. Alright Eric, thank you for your time.