Stephanie Izard Reveals What It Was Like Cooking With Éric Ripert - Exclusive

If you happen to be competing on the finale of "Top Chef," having some extra assistance in the kitchen is always welcome. But if those helping hands happen to come courtesy of a world-renowned Michelin-starred chef like Éric Ripert (via Michelin Guide), things might get a little awkward. Such was the case for "Top Chef: Chicago" winner Stephanie Izard, who, during an exclusive interview with Mashed, discussed the difficulties of playing boss to the Le Bernardin legend.

"Oh yeah, cooking with Éric Ripert," laughed Izard, recalling her over-qualified assistant during that career-defining cook. Since this was Izard's moment to shine, Ripert was simply enlisted to provide basic kitchen duties. (Fellow finalists Richard Blais and Lisa Fernandes also received some top-tier backup, getting paired with food icons Dan Barber and April Bloomfield, respectively, per Entertainment Weekly.) But, of course, Ripert is far from a basic chef, a fact that Izard may have lost sight of in the heat of the competition. "I always joke about this," she said. "I had asked him to cut fish. We were doing a dish and I was like, 'Can you clean this fish for me?' Then I went over and I was like, 'No, can you ...' and I was showing him how I wanted him to clean the fish. It was just really funny, especially at the time."

Looking back, Izard acknowledged that explaining fish cutlery to a seafood savant was a bit of a faux pas, chalking up the situation to nerves. "I think I was getting scared of working with someone like chef Ripert because he's just super amazing," she admitted. That's certainly understandable, especially considering the high-stakes nature of the competition.

Izard discusses the perks of being a celebrity chef

Flash forward 13 years later and now Izard, who heads a hugely successful business empire that includes multiple restaurants and product lines, per her website, is a celebrity chef in her own right. "It's cool," she said of the title. Izard noted that among the many benefits of her foodie fame are the multiple opportunities to work with chefs she admires at various charity cooking outings and during her continued television appearances, which includes taking on the role of Iron Chef (via Food Network). And unlike Izard's pairing with Ripert, the interactions with her culinary heroes nowadays are far more relaxed. "I get to see them at events and just text them and you're doing things with them," she said. "You feel a little bit more of a peer while still always looking up to so many people in the industry."

Izard also singled out a valuable aspect of being a "Top Chef" alum in particular: the lifelong bond she now shares with her fellow contestants. "I think that once you've done 'Top Chef' it's almost like you're in this weird little fraternity of people, of chefs, that have just gotten to know each other through that," said Izard. "The chef community in general is really cool where you go to a city and you probably have a chef friend there and you can go to their restaurant and visit and things like that. But the 'Top Chef' community is an even more close-knit group where we all went through this crazy thing that you cannot understand unless you actually went through it."

Make a reservation ASAP for Stephanie Izard's red hot new restaurant, Girl & the Goat Los Angeles. And if you're a home cook, take advantage of Stephanie Izard's This Little Goat line of spices, sauces, and Crunches.