How Eric Ripert Became a Restaurant Legend W/O Working Himself To Death
August 31, 2015 2:38 PM   Subscribe

The Le Bernardin chef is a practicing Buddhist who meanders to work in the morning and drinks double martinis in the afternoon. Spend a day with the man who has it all figured out. Eric Ripert is one of the most highly regarded chefs of our time, and he does something that is increasingly rare - he actually cooks at his restaurant most nights.

Le Bernardin has maintained it's four star rating for decades, perhaps because Ripert ignores the hyper buzz saw of modern ambition and is an anomaly of composure in the kitchen. He demonstrates his philosophy on a tuna.

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posted by helmutdog (48 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
I thought practicing Buddhists didn't drink.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:44 PM on August 31, 2015


Good-looking, smart, talented, rich, respected, tranquil.

At the Standard, he chooses cheese and charcuterie to go with the martinis and a chicken salad, which he devours until the plate sparkles. It’s the perfect setting for a second round of drinks, and when the waiter delivers them, he tells us he’s jealous.

Me, too.

Me, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:46 PM on August 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Or wear leather. Or eat meat.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:47 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ripert is also the only answer to the question: "Can you name a famous Andorran?"
posted by Kattullus at 2:47 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought practicing Buddhists didn't drink.

It's not a hard and fast rule for laypersons in many traditions.

Why do the pictures tell us how much his clothing costs? That's a little gross.
posted by selfnoise at 2:47 PM on August 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


Nobody said he's a good Buddhist.

I very much enjoy any Bourdain episode where he brings Ripert along for eating and drinking escapades.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:48 PM on August 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Or wear leather. Or eat meat.

Again, layperson.

It might be best think about rules, particularly those related to the Eightfold Path, as being guidelines for removing distractions to attain better meditation. It's not like the Ten Commandments.
posted by selfnoise at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2015 [26 favorites]


Ripert is also the only answer to the question: "Can you name a famous Andorran?"

Get out. He doesn't have blue skin or those little antennae. He can't POSSIBLY be Andorran.
posted by briank at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2015 [29 favorites]


I thought practicing Buddhists didn't drink.

Somebody better tell that to the majority of Southeast Asia.
posted by Falconetti at 2:52 PM on August 31, 2015 [34 favorites]


It's still remarkable that Ripert is actively in the kitchen most nights when almost all of the elite chefs in the business have largely turned into celebs more or less full and rely on executive chefs to keep their expanding business empires functional.

It's also kinda interesting in that he doesn't seem to be going overboard with all the trends yet somehow stays relevant to the world of haute cuisine.
posted by vuron at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2015


I'm going to skip the Buddhism discussion, because I don't really know enough to comment, and just say that I'm impressed that he resists the temptation to conflate working constantly with working effectively. I think that's a lesson a lot more people could stand to learn. I was kinda reminded (veering wildly off on a tangent here) of Treehouse's commitment to the four day work week. The great leisure that was supposed to be delivered by technology might never arrive, but it's nice to see that some people understand that you working like a psychopath isn't a requirement for success.
posted by protocoach at 2:56 PM on August 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


He demonstrates his philosophy on a tuna.

One thing I love about videos like this is how you occasionally get these surprising sneak peeks into multi-star kitchens. Crystal Film! Oh look this saucer is the right size for the portion, just use that to cut! It really reinforces to me that at base, all kitchens are doing the same fundamental thing--same utility products, same use-whatever's-handy mindset.

Also I want to eat that chirashi-esque dish he made for himself.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:59 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


"What is your guilty pleasure? I do not understand guilty pleasure. It is an Anglo-Saxon complex."

Yes
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:01 PM on August 31, 2015 [54 favorites]


Is it just me, or is the photography in the Bloomberg article deliberately and obnoxiously terrible? Not in a vintage/endearing way, but in a never-used-a-flash-before sort of way....
posted by schmod at 3:28 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


He demonstrates his philosophy on a tuna.

Does a tuna have Buddha-nature?
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:29 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eric Ripert is a god.
posted by Splunge at 3:31 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or is the photography in the Bloomberg article deliberately and obnoxiously terrible? Not in a vintage/endearing way, but in a never-used-a-flash-before sort of way....

I think they were going for some kind of "snapshot at a party" thing and missed completely.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:34 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love love love Eric Ripert. Before I was vegan, I wanted to eat at Le Bernardin but alas, the price tag was not within my budget, not even as a splurge.
posted by Kitteh at 3:34 PM on August 31, 2015


Is it just me, or is the photography in the Bloomberg article deliberately and obnoxiously terrible? Not in a vintage/endearing way, but in a never-used-a-flash-before sort of way....

I've produced the "fuzzy thumb over the edges of the pic" effect using my phone camera before. So has my 2 year old son. As someone who is forever cropping shots to correct this, it really did stick out like a sore something-or-rather.
posted by Raunchy 60s Humour at 3:38 PM on August 31, 2015


This picture is wonderful. 3* Michelin chef, perfectly composed plates... wiping the rim with his apron. And a glass of wine in the background!

tl;dr I want to be Eric Ripert when I grow up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:58 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dig his technique. Nothing fancy in any of the three dishes except the quality of his ingredients. He treats every ingredient with respect. He states portion control and demonstrates flavor balancing. (Flavor balancing with the care to get the carpaccio round to the proper thickness and the quantity and size of the accoutrements, as well as the length of his Sears on the other two tuna dishes.) he is careful, quick and clean with his cuts. He maintains an organized brigade (and not a pirate ship). Really, this is like what you look for in a head chef when you are touring kitchens.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Would try to work for this guy if I lived in NYC (and didn't have kids and responsibility.)
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:00 PM on August 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Man I would love to be able to be a regular there . . . it's not cheap.
posted by Carillon at 4:20 PM on August 31, 2015


Nanukthedog: "I dig his technique. Nothing fancy in any of the three dishes except the quality of his ingredients. He treats every ingredient with respect. He states portion control and demonstrates flavor balancing. (Flavor balancing with the care to get the carpaccio round to the proper thickness and the quantity and size of the accoutrements, as well as the length of his Sears on the other two tuna dishes.) he is careful, quick and clean with his cuts. He maintains an organized brigade (and not a pirate ship). Really, this is like what you look for in a head chef when you are touring kitchens.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Would try to work for this guy if I lived in NYC (and didn't have kids and responsibility.)
"

Indeed. Quality ingredients and cooking to show them off trumps over-manipulated and sauced to death any day.
posted by Splunge at 4:42 PM on August 31, 2015


Those ludicrous photo captions really fuck up the article.
Mr w0mbat relaxing with his lovely daughter ($ infinite) wearing some Tevas ($30), Old Navy shorts ($25) and an Apple polo shirt ($30).
posted by w0mbat at 4:54 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I gotta say I thought there would be more skepticism in the comments... dude worked hard to get where he is but now he pays other people to work hard and just makes sure to stay present, was the vibe I got
posted by subdee at 4:54 PM on August 31, 2015


A real man of the people in his $5,000 jacket.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:58 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just in case anyone doesn't know, the prices for the clothes are given because they're not Ripert's own clothing, they're promotional placement. Not that I'd begrudge him the right to spend his own hard-earned money on well-made clothing that makes him feel like he's the stone cold fox that I believe him to be.
posted by padraigin at 5:09 PM on August 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


There is a bus driver in Pittsburgh who is a dead ringer for Eric Ripert, and whenever I see him I choose to believe he's undercover doing some kind of research on the common people for Food Science.

Not liking seafood, I can never go to his restaurant because I don't want to be That Asshole ordering the secret duck off menu because of picky eating, but I do appreciate the general style of how he does food.
posted by Stacey at 5:40 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess a reason why he doesn't need to work insanely hard is his choice of quality over quantity, and exclusivity over accessibility. Which is another reason why expansion on the scale of some other celebrity chefs wouldn't make sense for him. There are only so many people in the world who are willing to pay thousands for a meal, and many of them are in New York.
posted by mantecol at 5:47 PM on August 31, 2015


who meanders to work in the morning and drinks double martinis in the afternoon.

Hey, I do that.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, kinda. You nailed it with the 'quality' thing. The amount of work and stress that goes into cooking at that level is intense, and if you start spreading yourself across multiple restaurants you lose focus, or delegate and lose quality (or stress continually about hiring people who will maintain your standards), or all of the above.

Plus it seems like Ripert doesn't buy into the "always bigger, always growing" capitalist mindset. One (-and-a-half) restaurant, one focus, he's happy. Celebuchef expansion doesn't make sense to him because he doesn't want it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2015


I would be absolutely mortified if someone took a picture of me with a 100 thousand dollar watch on my wrist, pointed that part out, and put the photo in a magazine along with my first and last name, and city of habitation.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:23 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I gotta say I thought there would be more skepticism in the comments... dude worked hard to get where he is but now he pays other people to work hard and just makes sure to stay present, was the vibe I got

I didn't get that vibe. To me, it sounded like he's genuinely the head chef of that kitchen. He designs the dishes, and from all the talk about him tasting the food and rechecking his palate with Swiss cheese, I assume he handles expo. That's not just "staying present," that's him performing the fundamentals of his job.

I work in fine dining (but FOH) and, as far as I know, his schedule is also pretty unremarkable for a head chef, at least one whose restaurant is running fabulously and who isn't looking to expand. I don't really know why the article made such a big deal about it. It sounded to me like he comes into work at mid-morning/a few hours before lunch service, then takes a break between lunch and dinner service to eat his own lunch and rest, then comes back to the restaurant to work dinner. So he runs basically every service? It was weird how they framed that like he was playing hooky.

The anecdote about the broken credit card machine was also kind of out of touch imo. That's not unheard of, and it's not some kind of epic emergency -- especially not for the chef. Computers are a nice convenience, but basically anything in the FOH can be run without them (and were, until surprisingly recently). You can use calculators and those old-fashioned credit card machines that create carbon copies to run checks. Servers can write out orders long-hand, which is inconvenient for the kitchen (might actually be more convenient for the servers, though) but doable -- especially if it's Ripert doing expo, ffs! The hosts can use floormaps and pen and paper lists -- though nowadays you can access Open Table as an admin even through your phone, so that's probably not ever going to be necessary anywhere again. Anyway.

An emergency for a restaurant, and for a chef, is something like a power outage. Ime, spoilage and serving bad food (god forbid someone gets food poisoning or an allergic reaction) is always the big fear. As long as the food is OK, the restaurant is going to be OK and everything else can be worked out (I'm one of the people at the restaurant who can and will make sure that everything else does get worked out!). It would be fascinating to hear how a place like LB would handle a mid-service power outage, though.
posted by rue72 at 7:33 PM on August 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


for a chef of his caliber to be checking into the restaurant every day, much less tasting sauces etc is unusual. he is famous, he could be Bobby Flaying it, but he isn't. I have a lot of respect for the guy.
posted by [tk] at 8:24 PM on August 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's definitely something about that level of personal attention which sets a restaurant apart. I had dinner at a fancy place here in LA the other night and while it wasn't on the level of Le Bernardin, it was still extremely cool that the head chef served one of our courses himself.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:48 PM on August 31, 2015


Not an expert by any means but if I recall correctly Tibetan Buddhism was a branch of Vajyarana Buddhism, which is pretty far removed from Western expectations of Buddhism. Until the last century (and perhaps now, I don't know having only studied Buddhism in a historical context) some branches of Tibetan Buddhism practiced a method of achieving enlightenment part of which consisted of transgressive acts that would appear pretty hedonistic to those raised in more Western traditions. That being said, I think the chef is simply taking what he needs from the religion and not making a serious attempt at Buddhahood.
posted by wobumingbai at 10:58 PM on August 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Although he appears regularly in the media and runs a small restaurant in the Cayman Islands...he is, for the most part, local and focused. And he’s surely leaving millions of dollars on the table."

This is Bloomberg Business being like "Only a Buddhist multi-millionaire could turn down more money amirite!? What a whacky enigma!"
posted by jnnla at 12:13 AM on September 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Work-life balance even when your work is your life I suppose preserves that spark of passion that got you into it in the first place.

Good on him.
posted by flippant at 2:19 AM on September 1, 2015


One outfit is about a months salary for me. Maybe I need to become a Buddhist.
posted by damnitkage at 5:36 AM on September 1, 2015


On the use of intoxicants and eating meat in Buddhism. When you seek refuge you're asked which of the five precepts you wish to follow (no lying, stealing, use of intoxicants, killing, or sexual misconduct). You can choose to bow out of not following some of them as a householder (layperson).

I couldn't read the article because I can't wrap my head around what I'm seeing in the article and what I think it means to be Buddhist. Kinda like the disconnect I felt when I saw three Tibetan monks leaving a Target this past winter.

Does a tuna have Buddha-nature?

You'll have to ask it in it's next life.
posted by redindiaink at 7:12 AM on September 1, 2015


Ripert is also the only answer to the question: "Can you name a famous Andorran?"

François Hollande, but that's kind of cheating.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:36 AM on September 1, 2015


Or wear leather. Or eat meat.

I may or may not have told this story here before.

I had the good fortune several years ago of not only getting to visit Tibet via China, but of having a mom travel-savvy enough to bribe the Chinese officials into letting us have a Tibetan guide (we were required to be with out guide whenever we were in public).

Gatzo was a super cool guy and, like everyone, a practicing Buddhist. Also, being in Tibet, yak meat was served everywhere and everyone ate it. We eventually asked him, "Everyone here is Buddhist, so... why do you eat meat?" and his reply still serves as something of a koan (not strictly, but I don't have a better word) to me: "I'm not a monk! Maybe in the next life."
posted by cmoj at 9:29 AM on September 1, 2015


serves as something of a koan (not strictly, but I don't have a better word) to me: "I'm not a monk! Maybe in the next life."

It's not a koan, if you mean some kind of self-contradictory or shocking statement. As selfnoise notes above, there are different expectations and rules for laypersons and monks in many Buddhist traditions. Your guide was saying he's not a monk, and thus is not bound by the rules they follow there.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:15 PM on September 1, 2015


Sangermaine: François Hollande, but that's kind of cheating.

It totally is cheating to put any French president in the category of "famous Andorran". Co-prince don't count. And saying "The Bishop of Urgell" doesn't count either, unless you can name the bishop without Googling and actually make a convincing case for his fame outside his diocese.

After reading the Bloomberg article, which minimizes Ripert's Andorraness, I went looking for confirmation of his Andorran identity. On the one hand, this article aboud Andorran food in NYC says that he only lived there from 10-17, formative though these years are, perhaps isn't enough. However the article also reveals that the Andorran Mission to the UN tells people who ask about Andorran food to call Ripert. So I'd say it's a wash. However, the clincher for me is that Ripert did an episode of My Country, My Kitchen. His country? Andorra. Boom!

I've wasted my life.
posted by Kattullus at 12:54 PM on September 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not a koan, if you mean some kind of self-contradictory or shocking statement. As selfnoise notes above, there are different expectations and rules for laypersons and monks in many Buddhist traditions. Your guide was saying he's not a monk, and thus is not bound by the rules they follow there.

I meant a koan as in something being a basis for reflection, which I note is not strictly accurate, but thank you for explaining my own words to me, I guess.
posted by cmoj at 1:54 PM on September 1, 2015


Sangermaine: "Ripert is also the only answer to the question: "Can you name a famous Andorran?"

François Hollande, but that's kind of cheating.
"

Don't forget Kolos.
posted by Splunge at 3:47 PM on September 1, 2015


Or wear leather. Or eat meat. - I am not a monk. Maybe in the next life.

HA! The idea that Buddhists are vegetarians who neither drink, smoke or wear leather and are free of sexism and speciesism is some kind of California fantasy. Most Buddhists in the world eat meat, wear or use leather, use some kind of intoxicant and are sexist... including monks and, as for the sexist part, from what I've witnessed in Thailand, perhaps especially monks. Yes, there are vegetarian Buddhists who fulfill our naive fantasies but they are in a very definite minority. If you want to see one of those, be one of those. I will say this, it's a steep path.

I've been a vegetarian for 50 years and, along the way, have moved closer to being vegan. I have also let go of intoxicants, sexism, speciesism and I buy cruelty free products when possible but I still have a couple of pairs of leather shoes. I don't want it to become an excuse but I have also learned to embrace "progress rather than perfection".
posted by chance at 2:40 AM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


What appeals to me about Buddhism is that it's non-theistic. Do people worship Buddha? Sure. Does the religion require it? No. The second thing I find appealing is that, and I think this is an out-cropping of its non-theistic-ness, is that it focuses on peace (the inner kind) rather than salvation.
posted by prepmonkey at 8:31 AM on September 2, 2015


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