The chef-turned-memoirist dished to F&W’s Nilou Motamed on the best advice he’s ever gotten and his secret food trades during service at Le Bernardin.
Last night at Barnes & Noble on New York’s Upper East Side, Food & Wine editor in chief Nilou Motamed sat down for a talk with Eric Ripert, celebrated chef-partner behind Le Bernardin and author of the new memoir 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line.
Over a glass of tequila (Casa Dragones, one of Ripert’s favorites), they discussed everything from his earliest childhood memories to his failed stint as a pastry chef (spoiler: he ate them all). Read on for more sound bytes about his bromance with Anthony Bourdain and his philosophies in the kitchen.
On good food: “When you bring people to a table, when you nourish people, it definitely inspires the conversations. When the food is good, you feel good.”
On his mom: “She was a very refined cook, and I thought at the time that everyone was eating like me.”
On the meal he’d cook for his mother: “I would… invite her to Le Bernardin for the entire tasting menu to see what happened to her son. I’d skip desserts because I am a terrible pastry chef. I was fired from [the station after] one day at La Tour d’Argent… I ate 25 pastries… I thought they wouldn’t notice.”
On this early mentor Jacques Quillacq: “I had the passion for eating, but not the artistry, the craftsmanship. But over the years, Jacques very subtly inspired me to love the craftsmanship. You have to love both… you cook and you become a chef not to become rich and famous, you become a chef because you love cooking.
On getting expelled and landing in culinary school: The school principle “said ‘he’s so bad, we can’t keep him!’ I tried to look sad but I was delighted! Culinary school!”
On returning to work for Joël Robuchon at Restaurant Jamin: “When I was called [to military service], I was like ‘oh my god it’s going to be a vacation!’ Then I got a call, and I thought it was a joke! But [Joël Robuchon] called me to ask if I would come back to take over the fish station… and I said ‘I don’t know I have a lot going on, can I think about it?’ And he said ‘sure, you have one minute.’”
On keeping a calm kitchen: “I had a hot temper, a Mediterranean temper… yelling, throwing plates… and I realized all the chefs were leaving because they were like ‘why would I work for this lunatic?’ You do not inspire cooks who are shaking and scared of you.”
On his favorite NYC spots right now:
Balthazar: “I drag my family there a lot.”
Yakitori Totto: “Incredible!”
Brasserie Cognac: “Soufflé! I’m in my soufflé period.”
Bar American: “They are right behind us… sometimes I crave a burger and I send the busboy to do a trade.”
On his chocolate bar with Anthony Bourdain: “Tony and I are re-releasing our chocolate bar called Good & Evil. I will let you guess which one is good and which one is evil!”
32 Yolks by Eric Ripert and Veronica Chambers is available from Random House. Eric and Anthony’s “Good & Evil” chocolate bars will be available this fall.