Though his television presence has garnered chef Eric Ripert accolades and fame outside of New York City, the French chef currently has only three restaurants to his name — the four-starred Le Bernardin and Aldo Sohm wine bar in New York; he is also a partner in Blue in Grand Cayman — and has no plans to open more. This week, Bloomberg profiles Ripert and discovers how a perfection-seeking chef found success without killing himself in the kitchen.
Ripert's crown jewel, Le Bernardin is unique among New York City's best restaurants: It has never lost its four-star rating from the New York Times, and it's held this rank the longest. The restaurant has also held onto its three Michelin stars for a decade, or since Michelin first came to New York. Other chefs of Ripert's caliber — French or American — have parlayed their success into hundreds of partnerships, from Las Vegas to Hong Kong, but Ripert never wanted to lose control — or his peace of mind. Here, now 13 enlightening lines from "How Eric Ripert Became a Restaurant Legend Without Working Himself to Death":
1.) On meditation in the morning: "In the mornings, chef Eric Ripert spends about an hour in his meditation room in his apartment on the Upper East Side."
2.) One of Ripert's sommeliers on his demeanor: "He is the sensei master. He is truly tranquil. I've worked for other celebrity chefs, and he is completely different."
3.) On leadership: "There's an intensity when I'm around. When you see the boss, you see the boss. I don't leave them shaking, but you put love into the food. It's a bit la-la-land, but I believe in it."
4.) On his approach to work: "A long time ago, we decided to have only one restaurant. Five or six years ago, I decided my journey would be in three parts. It would be one-third for myself, one-third for my family, and one-third for my business."
5.) On chocolate: "Ripert is a connoisseur of dessert and once went hunting cocoa beans in Peru with Bourdain."
6.) On his martinis: "dirty, with 'good gin,' and stirred. He thinks shaking them messes up the flavor, and he doesn't take them supercold. 'Then,' he says, 'you cannot taste them.'"
7.) Inside his office: "The walls are covered with posters of the Buddha and handwritten mantras, which Ripert recites easily: 'I purify my body. ...' Most of the images are 'medicine Buddhas,' and the largest is Tibetan."
8.) On cookbooks: "I don't buy books on the Internet. I need to feel the book. I go to Kitchen Arts & Lettesr in New York. It's a very tiny store that sells only cookbooks. ALl the chefs and foodies go there."
9.) On how Buddhism has come to inform all aspects of his life, including: "his food, which is almost aggressively minimalistic, yet wide-ranging."
10.) Ripert doesn't have a computer at his desk: "Ripert's assistants answer his e-mail, but most of his work is done in person or by telephone. 'Computers are supposed to free you,' he says, 'but people are more like slaves to the computer. I feel freer without it. I can think about other things.'"
11.) On wine: "He loves Bordeaux with everything," Sohm says of Ripert. "It's a bit ironic."
12.) On emotions: "I spent $1,000 on a cookbook. It's one of the pillars of my collection: a first-edition Gastronomie Pratique by Ali-Bab (1907). It's an emotional connection. It's hard to put a price on emotion."
13.) On not expanding (and likely leaving millions of dollars on the table): "I've reached my level of contentment career-wise. I'm very happy not to expand to other restaurants."
Video: Watch Eric Ripert Read a Bad Yelp Review