Eric Ripert’s new cooking show Avec Eric on PBS is a nice addition to the otherwise crowded food television landscape. It’s filmed in vivid high definition which really makes a difference, not just in the food porn closeups, but also the places he shoots on location.
Only three episodes have aired so far, but it looks like every one will follow a three part formula. Things open with a segment in the Le Bernadin kitchen where a different station is featured each week. We get to meet the staff member(s) responsible for that station as they explain the products they handle and how they work with them. In HD, the quality of the ingredients is stunningly apparent and you also get a sense of how clean, calm and orderly everything is in Ripert’s kitchen. It’s so cool to get a peek at the inner workings of the restaurant like that.
The second segment of each episode is filmed on location someplace where Ripert either sources his ingredients or is exploring and learning about new things. So far, two of the three episodes have featured places I’m familiar with from my trips to California the last few years, namely David Kinch’s restaurant Manresa and Hog Island Oysters in Tomales Bay. Both were really interesting segments. I didn’t know that Kinch has an exclusive relationship with Love Apple Farm where everything produced there is for use by Manresa. This frees up the farmer, Cynthia, from worrying about selling her product so she can just focus on her passion for growing things. Also interesting is the process of trial and error they use year after year until they manage to grow things that taste the way they want. Oh and there’s one particularly amusing moment where we watch Ripert’s expression as he tastes one of Kinch’s dishes. It’s as if he’s so overwhelmed by how delicious it is he can’t control himself so he punches Kinch in the arm and euphorically says “gimme a break, this is fantastic!”. Great stuff.
Then Ripert closes out each episode from his home kitchen in Manhattan where he shows us how to make a dish. His home kitchen is of course gorgeous, clean and spacious. And as you’d expect, his recipes have a beautiful simplicity and sensibility to them. More than anything else, it’s this opportunity to watch the master performing his craft (in HD!) that makes Avec Eric so enjoyable. From his obvious respect for his raw ingredients to his deft and delicate touch with every action in the kitchen, it just kind of makes you say, man, that’s the way to cook!