Eric Ripert’s Pick to Win Top Chef — Stefan!

02/11/2009 at 12:00 AM EST

Eric Ripert’s Pick to Win Top Chef — Stefan!
Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

After judging the cheftestants at his restaurant Le Bernardin on last week's episode of Top Chef, Eric Ripert has a good sense of who he thinks might come out on top this season. Calling from his restaurant in New York in between work on his upcoming PBS show Avec Eric (which premieres in September), the good-natured master chef told us why Jamie deserved to go home, weighed in the American vs. European chef rivalries and picked his Top Chef winner. --Brian Orloff

Tell us about your new show.It's about traveling for inspiration -- visiting who are doing interesting things. Sometimes it's farmers. Sometimes it's restaurants. We shot in Italy and California. We're shooting in New York. Then, the last segment of the show will be cooking.

Speaking of shows, you judged last week's Top Chef. Which contestants do you think have what it takes to win?I thought Stefan was by far the strongest. He's the one who really makes a difference, and he won the challenge easily. He has the technique; he has the sensitivity; he has a good palate and a good knowledge and good professional experience. To me, it makes a very big difference.

Is he your pick to win?I wouldn't be surprised all. To me it would be logical if he wins. I don’t think any of the others are at the same level.

What were your impressions of Jamie, who lost last week?I'm not surprised she lost. She was not at ease at all with even basics like filleting fish. It took her a very, very long time to fillet her black bass. I don’t know her from the previous episodes. But I thought she was weak.

At first, there was a rivalry between the European and American contestants on the show. What are your thoughts on that?Look, at the end of the day, good food is good food -- it doesn't matter if you're French or German or American. Knowledge is knowledge. If you don't have it, the citizenship doesn't give you it.

Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

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