World-renowned chef Eric Ripert is accused of spoiling the recipe for ‘Pho’, sparking an online backlash

World-renowned chef Eric Ripert is accused of spoiling the recipe for ‘Pho’, sparking an online backlash

Renowned chef Eric Ripert’s longstanding success at Le Bernardin, a three-Michelin-star Midtown seafood destination, is built on the exacting standards of classic French cuisine. But when the chef took to Instagram on January 3 to post what he called a pho recipe from his latest cookbook, it sparked a wave of backlash for what appeared to be a questionable and vague interpretation of what is often considered the dish. Vietnam national.

Three days after the new year, Ripert posted a post on his Instagram account with a caption that read: “2022 HEART WARMING PLATE Vietnamese vegetarian pho to warm up on this cold winter day between lunch and dinner service @lebernardinny. Swipe to see the full recipe to make at home with #VegetableSimple! ”

The caption was accompanied by a photo of the acclaimed chef sitting at a desk in Le Bernardin’s kitchen, using chopsticks to lift strands of thin yellow noodles with one hand, as he squeezed a lemon wedge over a bowl of broth, plus yellow noodles, and vegetables. Subsequent slides in the post included an ingredient list and instructions for making what Ripert called Vietnamese vegetarian pho, a recipe included in his book. Simple Vegetable: A Cookbook, which was published in April of last year.

A screenshot of the first slide in Eric Ripert's Instagram post promoting his 'pho' recipe.

Ripert’s post on Instagram.
Via Instagram

The first image alone, along with the caption proclaiming that the mixture inside the bowl was, in fact, pho, was enough to get some of Ripert’s 658,000 Instagram followers to look at it twice. “I thought I was eating ramen at first,” says Hung Tran, a DC-area pharmacist and self-proclaimed ramen nerd who follows Ripert on Instagram and saw the chef’s yellow noodles as he scrolled through his feed. Tran, who is Vietnamese, noted the discrepancy because pho is usually made with wider, flat, white rice noodles, a characteristic component of the dish that didn’t seem to be present in Ripert’s bowl.

At press time, the post remains on the chef’s Instagram account with nearly 200 comments alongside the recipe slides, with many critics of the photos and articles in the photo. “Those noodles are so yellow they look like they’re straight out of an instant noodle package …” wrote another commenter, @linhtrinh_nails. “And just because there is a file in the picture doesn’t mean it’s Pho.”

The chef, through a spokesperson, declined to tell Eater about this story.

This is far from the first time that misguided attempts have been made to highlight pho on a powerful platform, or that high-profile white chefs have misrepresented foods from other cultures by enthusiastically promoting interpretations that are light on cultural context and heavy on inexplicable. settings. In 2016, Enjoy your meal took a video of a white chef explaining how to eat pho and apologized for the mistake. Blogger and cookbook author Tieghan Gerard was charged with cultural appropriation and laundering of pho in early 2021 after posting a recipe for a chicken noodle soup that she originally called chicken pho, before changing the name following a backlash. violent in light of the many deviations of the recipe from reality. dish.

A screenshot of the second slide in Ripert's Instagram post showing a close-up photo of her pho image from her cookbook.

The second slide in Ripert’s Instagram post.
Via Instagram

The second photo in the Instagram post showed a close-up of the dish when the image appears in the cookbook, with seemingly different ingredients, including what looked like noodle noodles, also not normally used for pho, Tran notes, and slices of radish. deployed in the bowl. Two more slides showed an ingredient list for a recipe labeled “Vietnamese Pho,” complete with the aforementioned radishes, bean sprouts, soy sauce, an indefinite variety of rice noodles, and a few paragraphs listing instructions for prepare the dish in about an hour. . “It didn’t make sense to me,” says Tran. “It was a very strange recipe.”

Others were equally confused by what Ripert was trying to show with the post. Matt Le-Khac, chef and owner of the Vietnamese restaurant Bolero in Williamsburg, follows Ripert on Instagram and saw the recipe shortly after posting it. Le-Khac noted that neither the noodles in the first or second photo appeared to be actual pho noodles, and wondered why the recipe didn’t instruct users to burn the aromatic spices and vegetables from the broth like onion and ginger, a integral step to persuade the characteristic flavors of the soup that warm the belly. “It’s like the quintessential smell and essence of broth in Vietnamese cuisine,” says Le-Khac.

Ripert was already toying with the dish by making it vegetarian – classic pho is made by boiling beef bones and cooking the broth for hours to produce a flavorful and complex dish, but many chefs have played with pho in various ways, including vegetarian options, and New York is home to a host of outstanding variations. Le-Khac himself bends the rules on the pho technique in Bolero, where the kitchen team uses a deluxe combination oven instead of a stove to steam bone cauldrons and water for the pho and keep the broth simmering. simmered to precise, even heat overnight, just like the one Ripert appears to be using to bake baguettes at Le Bernardin in another recent Instagram post, notes Le-Khac.

Pho itself is a relatively young invention in Vietnam that has its roots in the French occupation of the Southeast Asian country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s common to see iterations on the plate, as people keep pushing it in new directions, according to Le-Khac, and Ripert is free to join in on that experimentation, in his opinion, as long as it’s done within the right context. “We are introducing new techniques” in Bolero, says Le-Khac. “But when we present it, we cannot lose the soul of the kitchen.”

Andrea Nguyen, Vietnamese cookbook author, known for her James Beard Award-winning cookbook dedicated to pho, Pho’s cookbookHe noted that ingredients like radishes are not typically found in pho, and the dish is generally made with mung bean sprouts rather than bean sprouts. Without providing any context on how this recipe was combined and why it uses the ingredients it uses, the [Instagram] the reader is like, ‘what the heck?’ ”Says Nguyen.

Ripert’s recipe also didn’t bother to specify what kind of rice noodles to buy for the soup, leaving cooks to choose from a wide range of options for a staple ingredient for the pho. “Let’s say I order French bread,” says Nguyen. What kind of French bread am I talking about? Am I talking about a baguette or a batard? Or something else?”

The fine-dining chef goes into those details for other recipes in the book, including a French soup called caldo aigo boulido. Ripert points out the area in France where the broth comes from, its cultural significance within the region, and why he’s a fan of the rich and flavorful dish. The recipe specifically calls for baguette slices, toasted and topped with Gruyère cheese, to accompany the broth.

But Ripert doesn’t seem to extend the same careful context to the recipe for “Vietnamese Pho” found later in the book. For an internationally recognized chef with a gigantic social media presence, seemingly overlooking the core components of pho and inaccurately representing a dish from another culture, felt damaging and regressive to those who understand the meaning of pho in Vietnam. “I have a responsibility to present the food of my culture in a very thoughtful way, and so does he,” says Nguyen.

In Ripert’s post, the dish labeled pho did not appear to include the basics of its namesake, and lacked context explaining what pho is, its importance to Vietnam, and why the chef made the changes he made when building his own version. from the dish. Still, the recipe was broadcast to Ripert’s more than half a million followers, many of whom left comments thanking the chef for sharing the recipe and claiming they couldn’t wait to try it. “This is not pho and it is incredibly sad that so many people on this post now think it is,” wrote one commenter, Tue Le, on Instagram. “If you want to colonize or appropriate someone’s food without honoring their cultural roots, congratulations. You were successful. “

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