Interview with Chef Philippe Rispoli of Daniel Boulud Brasserie - Las Vegas, NV

September, 2005

Amy Tarr: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Philippe Rispoli: I come from an Italian family and food is very important – my father was born in Naples, but my mom was born in Lyon. I started cooking with my family in France in Lyon. Charcouterie is my favorite food in the world – I love it - terrines, saucisson, pâte de foie gras, pate de campagne, etc.

AT: Did you attend culinary school in France? Do you only hire chefs with culinary school backgrounds?
PR: I worked through the apprentice system. It depends. Sometimes it’s good to have kids coming from the schools, and sometimes it’s good to have people with a little more practical experience. It’s great to have a mix.

AT: You met Daniel Boulud and started working for him in 1996 at Daniel in New York, working every station over 3 years. What are some of the most important things you learned from him?
PR: The quality of the products is the most important thing, the freshness as well as the variety – from classic to modern things. The best things are in season.

AT: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
PR: Work with fresh produce, not too much stuff on the plate, a few ingredients.

AT: You’ve been working in Las Vegas since 1999. What are the biggest challenges of being a chef in this city?
PR: To be on top every day. One day is good, one day is bad. The people in New York work 12 hours, here they work 8 hours.

AT: Is that a good thing?
PR: It’s not too bad. It’s different.

AT: Are there any secret ingredients that you especially like? Why?
PR: My favorite ingredients are tomatoes and eggplant - there is the possibility to do a lot of things with them –there’s a lot of diverse applications for these products.

AT: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
PR: My paring knife – I don’t have a special one, but I can do everything with it.

AT: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
PR: What do you want to be in 2 or 3 years? I want him to say – a chef or owner of a restaurant. I’m looking for people who want to work. I also have to see him working. I put them to work a bit before I hire them.

AT: What tips would you offer young chefs just getting started?
PR: Don’t be scared. Also the Food Network is not reality – the chefs we see on TV –it’s good for amateur cooking. Sometimes I ask people when I have an interview, “Why do you want to be a chef?” and they say, “I watch the food network a lot and I want to be a chef.” It’s good to have ambition, but you need to put your head down and work.

AT: What are your favorite cookbooks?
PR: I love the books from Alain Ducasse. I like Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook – it’s one of the best cookbooks ever made.

AT: Do you collect a lot of cookbooks?
PR: I have between 400 and 500! I’m a collector of all the classic French books - Escoffier, Bocuse, etc. I have my collection at home. It’s too expensive to keep at the restaurant. I loan my books to younger chefs if they ask or are interested.

AT: What cities do you like for culinary travel?
PR: I like to go to Italy – Naples – to see the family of my father – and for pizza, pasta!

AT: What are your favorite restaurants in Las Vegas?
PR: Nobu I like for sushi or Charlie Palmer for steak.

AT: Where do you see yourself in 5 -10 years
PR: In Las Vegas, cooking. Not retired because I’m too young! I hope to open up my own restaurant some day in Las Vegas. Why not?