Position: Chef & Owner, Television Personality, and Cookbook Author.
Website: Le Bernardin
Born: Mar 02, 1965
Education: Culinary school in Perpignan, France
“Best Restaurant in America” (1997) by GQ
“Best Food in New York City” (2000–2007) by Zagat
“Outstanding Restaurant of the Year” (1998) by the James Beard Foundation
“Top Chef in New York City” (1998) by the James Beard Foundation
“Outstanding Service Award” (1999) by the James Beard Foundation
“Outstanding Chef of the Year” (2003) by the James Beard Foundation
About Eric Ripert:
Eric Ripert is grateful for his early exposure to two cuisines—that of Antibes, France, where he was born, and to Andorra, a small country just over the Spanish border where he moved as a young child. His family instilled their own passion for food in the young Ripert, and at the age of 15 he left home to attend culinary school in Perpignan. At 17, he moved to Paris and cooked at the legendary La Tour D’Argent before taking a position at the Michelin three-starred Jamin. After fulfilling his military service, Ripert returned to Jamin under Joel Robuchon to serve as chef poissonier.
In 1989, Ripert seized the opportunity to work under Jean-Louis Palladin as sous-chef at Jean Louis at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Ripert moved to New York in 1991, working briefly as David Bouley’s sous-chef before Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze recruited him as chef for Le Bernardin. Ripert has since firmly established himself as one of New York’s—and the world’s—great chefs.
In 1995, at just 29 years old, Ripert earned a four-star rating from the New York Times. Over 15 years later and for the fifth consecutive time, Le Bernardin again earned the New York Times’ highest rating of four stars, becoming the only restaurant to maintain this superior status for this length of time, without ever dropping a star.
In September 2011, Le Coze and Ripert unveiled the next chapter in the restaurant’s history: a significant redesign from Bentel & Bentel that earned Le Bernardin a James Beard Award for “Best Restaurant Design” in 2012. The new look features a lounge, a first for the restaurant, where a separate menu is available.
Ripert is the Chair of City Harvest’s Food Council, working to bring together New York’s top chefs and restaurateurs to raise funds and increase the quality and quantity of food donations to New York’s neediest.
The Chefs Connection: What was your first job in food?
Eric Ripert: La Tour d’Argent in Paris after culinary school
TCC: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
ER: A Park Ranger. Growing up in Andorra, a small country in the Pyrenees Mountains, we were always outdoors hiking, skiing and enjoying nature.
TCC: What’s your favorite thing about being a chef?
ER: I love the creativity and teamwork of being a chef. I love collaborating with the staff to create a memorable experience for our guests. At the end of the day, we feel the best reward is when diners leave the restaurant with a smile.
TCC: Did you have an “aha” moment when you knew you wanted to be a chef?
ER: From a very young age, I had a passion for eating that I learned in my mother’s kitchen. I had this idea that if I worked in a kitchen I would get to eat all the time. At fifteen, I was kicked out of school and told I needed to find a vocation. I tried to look sad but I was delighted! Culinary school at last!
TCC: Best advice you ever got?
ER: Gilbert Le Coze once told me, “If you have a good article, stay humble. Read it, and never look at it again. If you have a bad article, keep it on your desk and read it every day for a long time…until you correct the mistakes.”
TCC: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
ER: Roasted guinea pig in Peru.
TCC: Your favorite ingredient?
ER: I love black truffle. I think it is a very mystical ingredient and I love working with it. No two are the same. You can always use them in sauces and in other ways and they add an earthy rich element to dishes. I can’t get enough.
TCC: The ingredient that turns you off the most.
ER: Brains. I’ve tried them many different preparations in many different countries and I still just don’t like them.
TCC: Your favorite tool?
ER: I have a vast selection of knives, mostly from Japan and Europe, which are my essentials. My favorite tool is always the one I need at the time!
TCC: What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not cooking?
ER: Eat! Travel! Both are two sources that greatly fuel my inspiration and creativity in the kitchen.
TCC: What would you like to do before you get too old to do it?
ER: Trek the Himalayas
TCC: Tell us a deep dark secret (doesn’t have to be food related).
ER: I sometimes dance (and sing—badly!) while I’m cooking.
TCC: How do you deal with the stress?
ER: I spend about one hour meditating each morning. It’s taught me to make space for happiness and calm in my day. I try to live my life in three parts: one-third for my family; one-third for the business; and one third for myself. The balance helps me manage stress and find contentment in each area.
TCC: Tell us a funny story from the kitchen.
ER: I was training in between my first and second years of culinary school when my Chef handed me about 25 ducks, asking me to debone them all, confit the legs, then freeze the breasts. A week later, the Chef asked me for one of the frozen breasts. I returned to him holding a boulder of almost 50 breasts all frozen into a solid block. We need a screwdriver and hammer to separate them. The Chef did not find it very funny…
TCC: Who would you like to meet?
ER: His Holiness the Dalai Lama
TCC: Who would you like to cook for?
ER: His Holiness the Dalai Lama
TCC: What was the hardest thing for you to learn? Or is there something you just can’t get right?
ER: I’m a terrible pastry chef. I was fired from the station after one day at La Tour d’Argent for eating 25 pastries…I thought they wouldn’t notice!
TCC: Is there some little something you do for your family to make up for the time you’re not with them?
ER: Ever since my son was four or five, we’ve had a tradition of the whole family making Sunday dinner together. When my son was younger, he would create a menu, I would cook, and my wife would do the dishes. He’s a teenager now and the tradition has evolved over time—he no longer draws and colors us menus; now we play blackjack after the dishes are done—but it’s important to us to eat together as a family
TCC: How did becoming a chef change your life? Your direction.
ER: I knew from the time I was so young that I wanted to be a chef…I can’t even imagine my life outside of the kitchen!
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So what do you do with a dish that doesn't turn out the way you'd like it?