Eric Ripert and Eric Kayser © Nigel Parry
This spring, New York City’s legendary seafood restaurant Le Bernardin stopped baking its own bread and began outsourcing the task to another legend, Maison Kayser, a famed Parisian bakery that opened its first American outpost on the Upper East Side last summer. “I thought the bread we had at Le Bernardin was fine but not at the level of the quality of the food,” explains Le Bernardin’s chef and co-owner Eric Ripert. Maison Kayser bakes and delivers 10 kinds of (still warm) bread to the restaurant three times a day. Among the offerings Ripert orders are mini and full-size baguettes, focaccia, and unusual offerings like rye-lemon loaves, basil-sesame rolls and turmeric-fennel rolls. “When I eat Maison Kayer’s bread it’s so good, it’s pleasure,” Ripert says. “Every roll has been made by hand. The quality of the flour that they use and the technology that they use to create their bread is very unique. Eric Kayser has invented what we call levain liquid: liquid sourdough starter.” Customers agree with the master French chef. “Since we’ve had the bread from Kayser, clients eat bread three times more than before,” Ripert says. “It’s great, but it’s expensive.” Here, Ripert chats with F&W about the evolution of bread in restaurants, the bread at Le Bernardin and his biggest butter pet peeve.
How have bread programs evolved in fine-dining restaurants?
In the past 30 years we have seen more and more restaurants having a bread program. In the 1980s, at fine-dining restaurants in Paris you had one type of bread. And when I started at Le Bernardin in 1991 there was one bread as well. Then suddenly we paid more attention to it. I think actually in America, we were leaders in demanding different kinds of breads.
Why do you think the idea of having a variety of breads on offer took off in America before Europe?
In France they have had great bread for a long time, but the French are very simple in their demands. They have a good baguette or a good country bread. But here, I think people didn’t have a tradition of a good baguette on their table, therefore they were more curious and more like, “Why not? Let’s do it! Let’s be more creative with it.”