Recipe for Success
Renowned chef Eric Ripert and his love affair with all things food
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It was a love of eating that brought Eric Ripert into the kitchen. When the new Top Chef judge and celebrated chef was just six years old, he joined his mother, aunt and grandmother in their provincial French kitchen—and snuck snacks while they did all the work. “I was very passionate about eating, and I would pretend to cook with the women so they would let me stay,” Ripert laughs in his Americanized French. “Only later did I discover a passion for cooking.”
THE MAKING OF ERIC "THE RIPPER" RIPERT
Among the people who decide such things, Ripert is considered the world’s greatest seafood chef. His flagship restaurant, Le Bernardin, has carried three Michelin stars for years and is consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world. Among foodies and fellow chefs, Ripert is akin to culinary royalty. Yet only recently has this Frenchman become a household name in kitchens across America.
He moved to New York in 1991 and worked briefly as David Bouley’s sous chef before Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze recruited him for Le Bernardin. He was just 29 when he earned his four-star rating from The New York Times. Ten years later—and for the fourth consecutive time—Le Bernardin again earned The New York Times’ highest rating, becoming the only restaurant to maintain this status for that length of time without ever dropping a star. And in 2005, New York magazine declared Le Bernardin the number one restaurant in the city, awarding it five stars, all of which remain intact.
BRAVO, BOURDAIN AND AVEC ERIC
Ripert has long appeared as a guest on the Bravo cooking competition Top Chef, but this season he joined Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons as a permanent judge. The toughest part of rating the contestants each week is keeping their food and their personalities separate, says the chef. “I try to judge only the food on my plate,” says Ripert. “I don’t care if they’re a good guy or a bad guy, or what happened last week. I just want to taste a good dish.”
In September 2009, Avec Eric, Ripert’s first television show, premiered on PBS. It’s a hodgepodge of Ripert in the kitchen and traveling the world. He can also be seen traveling with his friend and fellow chef Anthony Bourdain on Bourdain’s Travel Channel show, No Reservations—and he assures us that traveling with the Kitchen Confidential author is as wild a ride as it appears to be on television. “It’s actually way more fun than what you see, and you’re already seeing a lot of fun,” Ripert says. “There are some things they can’t even show you.”