ERIC RIPERT | The Art of Creating Memories | LE BERNARDIN New York
It is not a secret that when we are passionate and love what we do, the most positive emotions arise within us reflecting great results and touching those around us. Our creativity has no boundaries when it comes to evolving in doing what we feel is our calling.
Always fascinated by the culinary world, Eric Ripert’s journey to eventually become Le Bernardin’s executive chef and co-owner began at the young age of 15. His defining moment came when he realized that he wasn’t a great student, which catapulted him into culinary school in Perpignan, France. It was here that he discovered his passion. At 17, he moved to Paris where he cooked at the legendary La Tour D’Argent before taking a position at the Michelin three-starred Jamin. Ripert was an almost instant phenom; he embraced the joy of his profession, hence his successes only multiplied.
As natural in all of us, we always want more, seeking new ways of creative expression. The moment Eric stepped into Le Bernardin for the first time in 1991, after the founders Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze recruited him to become the restaurant’s chef, he knew that’s where he belonged. Today, he is one of New York’s and the world’s greatest chefs with various prestigious awards to his name.
Despite all his well-deserved accolades, for Chef Ripert, food is not about fame and financial gain.
He explains, “For me, food is about memories, feelings, emotions, and so is Le Bernardin, and that’s why it’s not just a restaurant. When I create I do so with memories of my childhood, travel experiences or living in New York. For me, Le Bernardin is not just four walls, it is more than a restaurant because I am deeply emotionally attached to this place and to the talent that works together creatively and passionately. We have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.”
Indeed, the team at Le Bernardin consists of individuals where their own identity, culture and influence contribute to creating a pleasant work dynamic for themselves, which is reflected in the experience of their clientele. The universal rule is to always be kind to each other and to complement each other knowing that united they are stronger when co-creating in such an exciting environment.
In addition to Executive Chef Ripert, there are six chefs and two sous-chefs who create to delight the different needs and wants of the guests. Starting with the excellent ambiance between the team members of the kitchen, the dining room, and the other departments, they always work in harmony knowing that to deliver a special experience to their guests, it starts with creating a great work atmosphere.
To keep up with the fast pace of New York, Le Bernardin reinvents itself constantly. This iconic restaurant that has been in the City for 33 years went through various renovations to make it more contemporary and to create a better flow of energy between the dining room and kitchen. 70 full-time waiters serve the four different rooms consisting of the main dining room, the lounge and bar area, and two private dining spaces. Even though the physical appearance has changed, the passion that drives the team has always been preserved.
Le Bernardin’s dishes are true artistic expressions. Chef Ripert’s menu is inspired by the seasons and by what is “local.” As a French restaurant in New York, certain influences are coming from the team members’ roots in France and other parts of the world to integrate flavors from different cultures.
At the time of this interview, Ripert was creating the Spring Menu for Le Bernardin, which takes a lot of focus, he revealed. “The goal is to always come up with a better one than last season. We are in the business of pleasing and the best reward for a chef is the smile and appreciation of a happy guest at the end of the meal.” He is also working on a vegetable cookbook scheduled to be published in Spring 2020.
When we focus on enjoying the journey towards manifesting the life we want, we will be more present to celebrate each moment along the way. Ultimately, expansion means fulfilling our dearest desires. Eric’s view on being able to be, do and have anything in life one wants is this:
“For me, the best part of striving for success in whatever I do is the journey. The search for it is important to try to be the best you can be. It’s not about fame and money, it’s mostly about happiness and having a positive impact on the community. That’s the beauty of it.”
With that, it’s no surprise that today the inspiring and compassionate Eric Ripert is the Vice Chair of the Board of City Harvest. Having been frustrated at the end of each night seeing food going to waste while people in need on New York’s streets go hungry, he decided to do something about it. Discussions with City Harvest in the 90s resulted in the charitable organization starting to pick up leftover food from Le Bernardin. This first step led Ripert to become a member of the board. To date, thanks to Ripert’s initiative, City Harvest is distributing 63 million pounds of perfectly fresh food to people in need in the five boroughs of New York.
Our emotional world is an indication of the life we are experiencing. Hence when we feel passion and love, everything around us transforms in most surprising ways. When we asked Eric how joy during the creative process affects his experience, he responds, “Joy is the main engine of everything in life. In order to excel, you have to have an inner fire.“