If you’re looking for exquisitely prepared fish in Manhattan, there’s no question that you should head to Le Bernardin — and the reason has everything to do with Ripert. As the chef and (since 1994) co-owner of the restaurant, Ripert is responsible for ensuring that only the freshest fish enters his kitchen, and that diners always leave with a newfound appreciation for how seafood should be done. A Buddhist, Ripert’s kitchen is not a chaotic rush-hour of colliding cooks and yelled-out orders. He runs his kitchen the same way he treats his fish — with delicate care and precision.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t improvise; as all talented chefs do, Ripert has an uniquely honed sense of how to read each fish and vegetable in moments before he turns it into one of his signature creations; there is no set time for cooking tomatoes, for instance, or sauteing fish —it all depends on how ripe the tomato is or how delicate the flesh of the fish is as it comes into his hands. It’s a skill learned from an early age, from cooking with his grandmother and then from culinary school, which he entered at age 15. Following an invaluable period in Joël Robuchon’s kitchen in Paris, where he acquired his delicate hand with fish, Ripert cooked for Jean-Louis Palladin in Washington, D.C. and David Bouley and Gilbert Le Coze, at Le Bernardin, where he remains today.
Despite television obligations — he has a PBS series, Aved Eric, has appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef, and on episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations — Ripert still spends about 70 percent of the time where he feels most comfortable: in the kitchen.
WHAT I EAT WHEN NOBODY IS LOOKING: “I have no guilt when it comes to food — I eat what I want when I want — but it’s safe to say that at some point on any given day you’ll find me eating a square of dark chocolate.”