6/15/2013 08:09:00 PM

Aspen F&W 2013: Ripert, Dufresne and Keller on the Tasting Menu

This morning at the 2013 Aspen F&W Classic, Best New Chef alums Eric Ripert, Thomas Keller and Wylie Dufresne (now icons in their own right) sat down with Food & Wine EIC Dana Cowin for a panel discussion on the pivotal moments in their careers, their legacies and the meaning of the Best New Chef title. Wylie described winning Best New Chef in 2001 as a "holy s**t" moment and Dana asked the group their thoughts on tasting menus - are they tyrannical or are they the true expression of a chef? (A subject we examined in a recent post.)

Eric Ripert, who serves 80-90 tasting menus a night, remarked that the tasting menu allows the chef to a tell a story. He compared it to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, i.e., diners get the full experience when ordering a tasting menu as opposed to just "one song." The tasting menu allows the diner to learn about the culture/style of the chef.

Thomas Keller added that he found diners to be looking to chefs for what to eat and drink, and that there's been an evolution of people wanting more tasting menus. He quipped: "If they want a bowl of corn flakes, I'll give them a bowl of cornflakes. We want the guests to be happy."

Dufresne felt that the tasting menu was a good form of expression as long as it's in line with the emotion of the restaurant. He also believes the submission of the diner to the chef's will is not meant to be a conflict, but an enthusiastic handing over of power on the part of the guest wanting to be taken on a journey.

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