Photo: Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
The Le Bernardin chef and TV star was serving local tuna with a truffled herb salad at a picnic on a sandbar called Starfish Point last weekend. Working next to him was Jennifer Carroll, the former Top Chef contestant and an employee.
"What do you think, Jenny?" he asked. "Shooting a Top Chef here?"
Jenny was recently told to take her knives and go from Top Chef All-Stars.
"Can I be a judge instead of competing?" she asked.
Ripert just laughed. The picnic was part of the third annual Cayman Cookout, a seriously indulgent affair. Other chefs who were part of the cookout included Anthony Bourdain, Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, chef and cookbook author Michel Nischan, and Hedy Goldsmith, the pastry chef at Michael's Miami location.
Asked if the yacht parked behind his grilling station at Starfish Point was his, Ripert laughed and said no.
"You have to grill a lot of fish to afford a yacht like that."
He was constantly asked to pose for photos with fans. Ripert said he likes being on television. But he doesn't think TV success ensures restaurant success.
"I enjoy being on TV," he said, smiling behind his sunglasses. "Does it help the restaurant? Probably yes because you have a diffierent visibility. However, I think what brings people to a restaurant is the quality of the product you serve. If you have a nice TV show and your food is disgusting, nobody comes.
Later he showed me a starfish, picking it up and placing it down gently on the soft sand under a few feet of water.
Does he know how to cook one?
"I have never seen anyone eat starfish. I don't know any country where they do," he said, considering the possibility. "Maybe there's nothing to eat in it. I don't know."
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