Eric Ripert is the chef and co-owner of the 3 Michelin-starred New York restaurant Le Bernardin. The celebrated restaurant is the only restaurant to maintain four stars from the New York Times for over two decades. Ripert is the author of five cookbooks, including Avec Eric (2010), On the Line (2008), A Return to Cooking (2002), Le Bernardin – Four Star Simplicity (1998) and most recently, My Best: Eric Ripert (2014), an illustrated recipe guide to 10 of his signature dishes. Chef’s Roll is honored to have been granted an exclusive interview with the famed and talented Chef.
What is your food philosophy?
We have a mantra at Le Bernardin that states the fish is the star of the plate. Whatever goes on the plate is there to elevate the fish, and as fish is so delicate, we don’t believe in overcomplicating the dish.
What is your leadership philosophy?
To build a great team. To become a leader, you have to be inspirational to your team. You do not proclaim yourself the leader – they are the ones who tell you that you are the leader. They are the ones who follow you when it’s difficult. So, you are put to the task, and when everything goes fine and it’s easy, you may believe you’re a leader. When you encounter some difficult times, you are leader when the team follows you. When I joined Le Bernardin and was mentored by Gilbert Le Coze, I learned how to become an executive chef and to develop an understanding of true leadership.
What are your pet peeves in the kitchen at home, a friend’s kitchen, and at work?
I believe a kitchen should be a clean, organized place. It is hard to work in a kitchen that is messy.
What is on your kitchen tool and machinery wish list?
I don’t believe in fancy gadgets. My most prized kitchen tools are my knives.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself at the beginning of your career?
Be kind, and be yourself. Stay humble.
If you could give every home cook one technique, skill, or advice to create better meals at home what would it be?
Great knife skills are a very important technique for home cooks and in professional kitchens. Work neatly and keep things simple.
Who were your culinary role models growing up and who are they today?
When I was young, I really looked up to Michel Guerard and Paul Bocuse. When my parents would ask me where I wanted to go to eat for my birthday or what I would like for a Christmas gift, I always asked to go to Paul Bocuse. And then when I was 13, I got Cuisine du Marché, which is his book, and I was flipping the pages and looking at that much more than I was my school books!
Everyone has a story. Tell us how you knew you wanted to become a chef?
From a very young age I had a passion for eating. I spent a lot of time with my mother and grandmothers in the kitchen, helping and eating. So from a very young age I knew I wanted to become a chef. I started culinary school at age 15 and never stopped cooking from that point on.
Is there anything you refuse to eat or anything you only eat if you cook it yourself?
I don’t like brains. I cannot explain what it is about brains. It’s not like I’m scared, but I just have a vivid memory—probably one of my only memories from when I was under 5 years old — but my parents fed me brains because at that time they thought that they’d supposedly make you smarter. And I remember taking the brain in my spoon and playing with it like a catapult.
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