Celebrity Chef Eric Ripert Joins SeaWeb’s Crusade to Promote Eco-Friendly Cuisine
Award-winning chef Eric Ripert is a strong advocate of sustainable seafood. A Member of SeaWeb’s Seafood Choices Alliance, he serves only eco-friendly fish at his four-star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City. Chef Ripert spoke with SeaWeb about his belief in maintaining the ocean’s ecological balance by providing a more environmentally sustainable fish supply. He also shared a recipe for preparing one of his favorite seafood dishes, Striped Bass "Salsa Verde".
- What is your favorite type of seafood? Which are you currently most interested in exploring ?
What matters for us is not necessarily the species, but the freshness of the product. Lately we are very interested in the seafood from Hawaii.
- What was the most memorable seafood dish you’ve ever had ?
The monkfish bourride from my grandma in Provence – 30 years ago. It’s a dish of poached monkfish in a sauce made of shellfish and aoli, simply served with potatoes.
- How would you describe your involvement with sustainable seafood and ocean conservancy ?
If we can create a better world by conserving our resources today, and changing our habits today, I want to be a part of that in any way that I can.
- How has your philosophy influenced what you serve at Le Bernardin ?
Le Bernardin is always involved in important campaigns to protect endangered species. We were involved with the "Give Swordfish a Break" campaign. And today we still do not serve swordfish or Chilean sea bass.
- Do you feel customers are upset by the absence of these seafood dishes ?
I have never heard a complaint from a customer that his/her favorite fish is not on the menu. I think when people are informed about what is at stake, they are actually excited and supportive of the campaign.
- What is a good alternative for people who enjoy the flavors of endangered fish, such as swordfish and Chilean sea bass ?
Instead of Chilean sea bass, try black cod from Alaska. Instead of swordfish, hamachi or mahi mahi could be a good replacement.
- What are the most popular seafood items on the menu at Le Bernardin ?
Tuna is always very popular, as well as shrimp and striped bass.
- What has the Seafood Choices Alliance taught you about the seafood industry ?
It keeps me updated on the scientific side of the issues, and it gives me a general idea of what is endangered and what is not.
- Have you tried to influence fellow colleagues to adopt the principles behind sustainable seafood ?
Absolutely. I always interact with other chefs and share my knowledge of what is going on.
- What would you suggest the restaurant community and consumers do to help be proactive about sustainable fisheries and environmental conservancy ?
I want people to have up-to-date, sound information from both sides to enable them to make up their own mind.
- What trends in the seafood industry do you foresee in the next 10-20 years ?
I see more fish being raised organically on fish farms that are more environmentally friendly. For the upper end of the market, I also think fish will be raised with food that brings good flavors to the fish.
Steamed Striped Bass “Salsa Verde”: Clam Juice, Roasted Garlic, Herb Purée and Lemon Juice; Warm Crab and Raw Mushroom Salad
Eric Ripert, executive chef of Le Bernardin (New York)
- 4 (6-ounce) striped bass filets, boneless and skinless
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 6 ounces leg crab meat
- 4 matsutake mushrooms, peeled, and sliced 1/8 inch (*You can substitute white button mushrooms)
- 1 tablespoons chives, sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- juice of one-half lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- cayenne, to taste
- 2 cups of parsley leaves, washed
- ¼ cup of tarragon leaves, washed
- ½ cup of picked chives
- ½ cup clam juice, bottled
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 head garlic
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To roast the garlic, wrap the entire head in foil and place in oven for 20 minutes. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the husks. Reserve.
- Place the herbs and chopped garlic in a blender with a ¼ cup of water. Puree until smooth. Reserve.
- Brush the striped bass filets with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. In a shallow baking dish, add ½ cup water. Cook in a 400° oven for 5-7 minutes.
- Place the mushrooms and crab meat and lemon juice in a bowl and lightly toss. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
- To serve, place the striped bass in the center of the plate, neatly arrange the mushroom and crab salad on top, covering the whole piece of fish.
- Bring the clam juice to a simmer, add roasted garlic and the herb purée. Whisk gently. Adjust clam juice with salt and pepper. Pour sauce all around the fish and serve immediately.
More on Chef Ripert...
For the past decade, Eric Ripert has been pleasing the most refined palates in New York City with his inventive seafood cuisine at his internationally acclaimed four-star seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin. The demand for fresh seafood has grown dramatically in recent years, as the health benefits of seafood have become apparent. Unfortunately, many of the most popular seafood choices are in grave danger of becoming extinct due to environmentally harmful practices and impacts, including over-fishing and habitat damage. Ripert is one of many high-profile chefs that have recognized the importance of making environmentally sound choices about what they offer diners. Even the menu at Le Bernardin reflects his objections, stating, “ Le Bernardin will not serve Chilean Sea Bass in support of NRDC [National Resources Defense Council] and SeaWeb’s educational efforts to speed the recovery of these endangered species.” Ripert also works exclusively with seafood purveyors that catch and farm in a way that does not harm the environment.
Ripert has proactively supported sustainable fishing with his refusal to serve endangered seafood. He demonstrated this passion through his involvement in the “Give Swordfish a Break” campaign. Beginning in 1998, "Give Swordfish a Break," along with other conservation organizations, successfully advocated for recovery measures to restore North Atlantic swordfish, which had been severely depleted after decades of over-fishing and mismanagement. Give Swordfish a Break was the first large effort to mobilize chefs and consumers in support of stronger fish conservation. Over the course of the campaign, hundreds of chefs signed the Give Swordfish a Break pledge, while others – the Peabody hotel chain, cruise lines, grocery stores, airlines, and uncounted others – agreed to remove North Atlantic swordfish from their menus.
Ripert has garnered extraordinary praise from critics and patrons alike for his exceptional seafood fusions and has quickly become one of Manhattan’s top gourmet chefs. He was named "Outstanding Chef" in May 2003 by the James Beard Foundation, a prestigious organization that recognizes culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their field. Zagat's Guide rated Le Bernardin number one for food in New York in 2004 and Ripert’s sumptuous dishes have earned him accolades in such publications as Gourmet, Food Arts, Wine Spectator, W and Elle. In 1997, GQ named Le Bernardin the best restaurant in America. In addition, Ripert has helped maintain the coveted New York Times four-star rating more than twice as long as any other New York restaurant. He published his first cookbook, “Le Bernardin—Four Star Simplicity,” in 1998.