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The New York Post reports that the chef is planning a wine bar and a private dining room
Eric Ripert might not be opening any more restaurants, but he has planned an expansion of his seafood mecca Le Bernardin.
The New York Post reports that chef-owner Ripert and partner Maguy Le Coze have taken over two floors in the Equitable Center, where Le Bernardin now resides.
The plan: A wine bar on the ground floor called Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, and a private dining room on the second floor, called Bernardin Privé. Both are reportedly slated to open early next year. This will be Le Bernardin's first expansion since its opening 27 years ago, although it just recently redesigned the main dining room in 2011 and added a lounge area.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar will be run by its namesake sommelier (although he will still be on the floor at the main dining room). It will only have a 200-bottle wine list (compared to the main room's 900-bottle list), plus a light menu and a limited selection of beer and spirits, all of which Ripert says will be "reasonably priced."
Bernardin Privé, in the meantime, will be a private dining area that can accommodate 200 guests, compared to Le Bernardin's previous private room which could only house 80 diners. “We feel we will have an edge for things like banquets because we can cook à la minute," Ripert told The New York Times.
These two projects are taking over spaces that were originally Palio and Piano Due; the 11,500 additional square feet might be the only expansion in a while. "We see this project as the completion of Le Bernardin," Ripert told The Times.
Can You Make Bolognese Without Meat? Eric Ripert Thinks So
The famed chef of New York’s legendary Le Bernardin uses maitake and button mushrooms for a twist on the Italian classic.
Chef Eric Ripert is famous for the elegant seafood dishes served at his award-winning New York restaurant Le Bernardin. But seafood hasn’t always been central to his culinary life. One of his most cherished dining experiences growing up in France was enjoying hearty bowls of classic pasta Bolognese made by his Italian grandmother.
“[Bolognese] has this kind of magic feeling of being home,” says Ripert. “It’s funny because when I travel, if I order room service because I’m too tired and I stay in my hotel, I order Bolognese. And I feel good immediately.”
While the traditional meat-and-tomato sauce is still a favorite, he admits that sometimes it’s a bit too heavy for him. So, about five years ago, he developed a Bolognese to make for his family that substitutes maitake and button mushrooms for the meat.
“I thought maybe I could use mushrooms and chop them and cook them almost exactly like a Bolognese,” he says. “So I tried, and I was very pleasantly surprised because it has a lot of the flavors of the Bolognese, but obviously it’s much lighter.”
It quickly became “one of the favorites for the family” that he now makes on a regular basis. It’s also one of the recipes he knew he had to include in his latest cookbook, Vegetable Simple, which was just released. In recent years, he’s been “eating more vegetables than ever” and returning to the traditions of his childhood when many of the meals were vegetable based. That is except for fish on Fridays and the Bolognese on Sundays.
Le Bernardin sets historic expansion
The four-star seafood restaurant Le Bernardin is expanding for the first time in its 27-year history, The Post has learned.
Chef-owner Eric Ripert and partner Maguy Le Coze plan to launch two new venues around the corner in the Equitable Center arcade early next year: a classy wine bar and a huge private dining floor.
It will be the first time Le Bernardin has grown from its origin at 155 W. 51st St., part of the skyscraper at 787 Seventh Ave., which is known as the AXA Equitable Center.
Ripert said the new spaces will cover 11,500 square feet on two levels that were previously home to Italian restaurants, originally Palio and more recently Piano Due, which closed two years ago.
The ground floor — home to the Palio bar with a wraparound mural of the famed Siena horse race — will become Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, to be run by Le Bernardin’s much-honored sommelier. However, the mural, owned by landlord AXA, is not expected to remain.
Ripert promised that Sohm “will still be on the floor at Le Bernardin” in addition to creating a 200-bottle wine list across the arcade, compared with the main restaurant’s 900-bottle cellar. There will also be a light menu as well as a limited selection of beer and spirits.
The second floor will be home to Bernardin Privé, a private dining floor with room for 200 guests. “We have always had tremendous demand for private rooms,” Ripert said.
Le Bernardin’s current private space above the restaurant can accommodate only 80 patrons.
The new venues will be designed by architecture firm Bentel & Bentel, credited with the dazzling re-make of Le Bernardin two years ago.
Le Bernardin has consistently earned four stars from local critics since it opened. It also enjoys three Michelin stars and is ranked as “most popular” in the Zagat Survey as well as No. 1 for food.
ON THE LINE + STRATEGIC PLANNING
Esteemed chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, one of six Michelin three-star restaurants in New York (there are only 14 in America) has an incredibly meditative approach to life and business—appropriate for a practicing Buddhist, but uncommon for a high-powered chef. As a young chef, his hot temper led to heavy staff turnover and what he felt was an imbalance in his daily life. Ripert’s food, his vision, his reputation—those were the things that occupied his thoughts. With time, reflection, and meditation, he has changed the way he works in the kitchen. Today he sees himself as more of a teacher, guiding staff through excellent training with a focus on teamwork.
All of this and more are on display in his gorgeous book, On the Line: Inside the World of Le Bernardin, written with Christine Muhlke. On the Line is a detailed account of a day in the life of Le Bernardin, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the precise operation created by Ripert and his business partner Maguy Le Coze. Part biography, part cookbook, it is made up of five sections: The History, In the Kitchen, The Dining Experience, The Business, and The Recipes. Each part is comprehensive, describing almost every element from the front of house to the basement offices. Readers learn a fairly typical day’s schedule, menus, the staff hierarchy and each person’s duties, the timetable of a dish—from order to service—and numbers, numbers, numbers. There are 500 pounds of black bass served each week, 1,300 glasses washed by hand each day, 14,000 bottles of wine in their cellar, and $12,000 per month spent on flowers. Plus, you can read Le Coze’s 129 Cardinal Sins for her front-of-house staff.
Each January we prepare our company-wide strategic plan for the year. As we approached this year’s agenda, we revisited On the Line for inspiration, helping us narrow our focus and be specific about each goal—whether it’s a new budget, prioritization of needs, revenue increases, cutting costs, or creating new systems.
Though a day in the life at Alabama Chanin may look slightly different from one at Le Bernardin, some of their systems and their focus on attention to detail apply to our own way of doing things. We have a hierarchy of systems that we use to help make decisions, with quality being first. We focus more each year on safety, monitoring each of our machines closely and even offering CPR courses for our staff. We also have timelines and strict standards on how each product is made. Eric Ripert’s kitchen requires all 120 of its employees to be performing as well as possible to ensure excellent service at Alabama Chanin, we don’t yet have 120 staff members, but each performs essential tasks and must be counted on to produce high-quality products on a consistent basis.
Much like Ripert and Le Coze have done at Le Bernardin, we want our passion for excellence to be contagious in our staff and artisans. No garment or meal in our café is about only the finished product. It is also important to us that our customers feel a connection to the details of our processes from basic design to order delivery. That means a lot of training, meetings, work, and dedication from our staff, across the board. It also means making the extra effort to source the best and most sustainable materials, on a consistent basis. Just as with a precise dish, consistency is essential to our products.
If you are looking for inspiration on creating your own schedules or ways to organize your own life or business, we recommend consulting On the Line and Le Bernardin’s standards for excellence. Their leadership, their systems, their products, and their reputation inspire us. Onward, to an excellent 2017.
Chef Eric Ripert Shares His Favorite Recipe From Mom
The French culinary mastermind behind Le Bernardin talks growing up in the kitchen, eating an apple tart a day, and the Vietnamese spring rolls he's dreaming about this Mother's Day. Scroll down for the recipe.
Harper's Bazaar: You gave us your mother's recipe for Les Nems, aka Vietnamese spring rolls. When did she make them for you?
Eric Ripert: We lived in St. Tropez when I was young, and there were a lot of Vietnamese refugees in France at the time, after the war. My mother had many Vietnamese friends who entertained a lot, and she was taught how to make that spring roll. She would make them all the time. As soon as I see them, it brings memories. I would eat dozens of them. I was unstoppable. To this day, I can eat 12 of them, no problem. My son is following in my path. He can have eight or nine.
HB: Does your son have any foodie ambitions?
ER: So far, in cooking, no. Just eating. He's very clear about that. He has no intention of cooking or cleaning he just wants to eat. But we are very similar&mdashexactly like me, he can eat nonstop.
HB: What's your earliest cooking memory?
ER: I was perhaps three or four. It's strange&mdashI have very vivid memories of being a young child. My mother would create dinner as for us, and when she would bake, she would leave some dough for me. I would roll the dough into little sticks while she was cooking the apple tart of whatever. I was looking through the window of the oven and flipping the light, and then my bread would come out, and it was inedible, of course. But I thought it was delicious. I have more eating memories than cooking memories and many memories of being in the kitchen&mdashI was always attracted to the kitchen&mdashbut nobody ever wanted me to touch anything.
HB: What other dishes remind you of childhood?
ER: Apple tart because, then, it was my favorite. My mother and my grandmother would make an apple tart in different styles, and I had one per day. Every day I would eat one full apple tart.
HB: Were you active as a child?
ER: Yes, I was&mdashbecause I was very mischievous, and therefore I had to run for my life!
HB: What about now?
ER: Just walking in the kitchen (and we have three kitchens at Le Bernardin), I exercise quite a lot. I also walk in Central Park for 50 minutes from my house to Le Bernardin every day, rain, shine, snow.
HB: When did you realize you wanted to be a chef professionally?
ER: I had a passion for cooking, and I was a very bad student. At 15, I had to choose a vocational school, and I was delighted, of course, to go to culinary school. But learning the basics was not as exciting as being the chef I am today. When I started to work in Paris in fine dining, the passion really kicked in, and I knew that I would not, for the rest of my life, do anything else.
HB: Tell me about the recipe that gave rise to the title of your memoir, 32 Yolks.
ER: It was my first day working at Tour d'Argent, a famous restaurant in Paris, in 1982, and they were celebrating their 400 th anniversary. I am in the fish station and after many mistakes, including cutting myself after 30 seconds in that kitchen, the chef said, "Make a Hollandaise sauce with 32 yolks." It takes me forever to separate the yolks from the whites, and I put them in a bowl and try to go close to the stove, but the stove is way too hot for me. (I think, in retrospect, he may have pranked me.) Then I try to basically make a sauvignon, which is a foam from the egg yolks, but my arm is not strong enough. The mass of the yolks is too heavy the stove is too hot. Instead of making that light sauvignon, I make basically, like, dry scrambled eggs. It's when I realized, "Hm, I'm not that good at all. It will take me weeks, maybe months, to master the 32 yolks." When I did, it was a turning point in my career.
HB: Are you going to be cooking a special Mother's Day dish for your wife this weekend?
ER: Yes. You have to cook for mom. I'll go to the market, and, depending on the vegetables I find, I'm either going to do a stuffed chicken with fava beans and asparagus or a lamb stew called navarin printanier.
HB: Does your mother still cook for you?
ER: Yes, actually she really wants me to eat her food, especially apple tart.
HB: Do you ever cook together?
ER: Actually no. It's either her or me. I heard her, when I was in culinary school, complaining that I was very messy. When I go visit her (she lives near Barcelona), she still pushes me out of the kitchen. When she comes here, I'm like, "This is my kitchen!"
HB: What's your favorite dish to make for yourself?
ER: I love eggs. When it's the season of truffles, scrambled eggs with truffles, and I'm happy. I'm smiling like that.
HB: Other than Le Bernardin, of course, where do you dine out?
ER: A new find was La Sirena, the new restaurant by Mario Batali. And it happened that I went to Del Posto, which is Mario again, last week.
HB: What are some of your non-food interests that may surprise people?
ER: I am an audiophile. It's almost like a virus. I'm completely crazy about the quality of sound. It's interesting and painful at the same time you have to really spend a lot of money on the equipment.
HB: What do you listen to when you cook?
ER: A lot of techno. In New York there used to be some very good clubs with amazing sound systems. Techno was part of the process. Today, because I want to be gentle on my back, I listen to jazz.
HB: Do you notice the sound quality at clubs?
ER: Oh, immediately. I'm very sensitive to it. Actually, if I go to a nightclub, even if the music is good, if the sound system is not, I don't stay.
HB: Do you like to dance?
ER: Yeah! I'm very bad, but I like to dance. I was at Tao two weeks ago, at the night club, and ended up at Provocateur.
HB: Party animal!
ER: Not really, it was two weeks ago, and it'll take me six months to go back. You know, just trying to be cool.
Eric Ripert Announces Le Bernardin Expansion in NYC
Big news for Manhattan: Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert and co-owner Maguy Le Coze have announced plans to expand, The New York Post reports. Le Bernardin, the three star Michelin restaurant in New York City's midtown, is currently ranked #19 on the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list and has never expanded in its 27-year history. In the exclusive, Post critic Steve Cuozzo explains the expansion will include a new wine bar and a private dining room. The new locations will comprise two floors and 11,500 square feet in the skyscraper that is home to Le Bernardin.
The wine bar will be called Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, named for and run by Le Bernardin's sommelier Aldo Sohm. The bar will feature a 200-bottle list curated by Sohm, and Flo Fab reports at The New York Times that lunch and dinner will be served, with lunch featuring "a plat du jour with a glass of wine." Aldo Sohm Wine Bar will occupy the ground floor of the space.
The private dining space will be called Le Bernardin Privé. Taking the entire second floor of the space, the private room can accommodate 200 people. (Currently, Le Bernardin can have 80 dine privately at Les Salons). Ripert explains the decision to Cuozzo: "We have always had tremendous demand for private rooms."
No specific dates were given, but Cuozzo writes that Ripert and Le Coze are planning to open "early next year." Ripert is quoted in the Times saying, "We see this project as the completion of Le Bernardin."
Eric Ripert’s 2-Ingredient Mushroom Broth Recipe
Eric Ripert is best known for his role as chef and co-owner of New York’s Le Bernardin, a seafood-centric restaurant with three Michelin stars to its name. Which means it might come as a surprise that he wrote an all vegetable cookbook, titled Vegetable Simple, which was released yesterday.
Full of recipes inspired by simple preparations of produce, short ingredients, and Ripert’s childhood, this 200+ page vegetarian cookbook may seem a bit unexpected from such a seafood-focused chef. But, in fact, it’s a project years in the making: “At Le Bernardin, we have the mantra: ‘The fish is the star of the plate,'” Ripert told mindbodygreen. “While that remains true, about three years ago, I became very curious about vegetables, and began exploring why we weren’t highlighting them in the same way as proteins.”
Ripert isn’t alone in this fascinations with veggies, restaurants from fast food to fine dining have embraced the uptick in vegetarian and vegan eaters with gusto—but here at mindbodygreen, we’ve always been fascinated by the power of plant-based diets. (In fact, Ripert’s book dedication “to the well-being of all” isn’t too far off our core point of view.)
This consommé recipe is indicative of the type of cooking the book highlights: simple, clean, and purely focused on vegetables. Consommé is a type of broth, which is made with a technique to keep the mixture clear of sediment. While it usually starts with animal protein, this vegan version uses mushrooms. “I like to serve this consommé at the beginning of a meal,” writes Ripert, “The lightness is deceptive and it surprises my guests with its rich intense flavor.”
While you do take out the majority of the mushrooms before serving, that doesn’t mean they have to become waste: “You can use the strained mushrooms again by incorporating them into another dish or simply enjoy them marinated in olive oil and a splash of vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper,” he offers as suggestions.
- 1. Kill the lobsters and poach them according to the directions in Poaching Lobster (do not shell the tail meat). Shell the claw meat and cut it lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using heavy kitchen shears, cut away the legs and the thin shell that covers the underside of the tail meat. Cut the tails, with the meat still adhering to the shell, on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Refrigerate the lobster meat.
- 2. Put the lobster stock in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat slightly and simmer, skimming occasionally, until the stock has reduced to 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Put the sauce in a bowl and let it cool slightly. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the vinaigrette. (The recipe can be made to this point up to several hours ahead refrigerate the sauce).
- 3. To serve, preheat the oven to 550 degrees. Spread the lobster on a baking sheet in a single layer and season it with salt and pepper. Spoon 1/4 cup of the sauce over the lobster. Put the rest in a small saucepan and warm it gently over low heat. Put the lobster in the oven just until warmed through, about 1 minute.
- 4. Put the mesclun in a bowl and toss with the shallot, tarragon, and lemon juice. Toss with 6 tablespoons of the sauce. Mound the salad in the center of 4 dinner plates. Arrange the lobster tail slices in a circle around the salad, with the crescent backs of the shells facing the rim of the plate. Scatter the claw meat over the salad.
- 5. Spoon the remaining sauce over the tail slices and top each one with a small sprig of chervil. Put a large sprig of chervil on top of each salad and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from the Le Bernardin Cookbook by Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, © 1998 Doubleday, A Division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
Eric Ripert on Fine Dining and Not Being a Jerk
In the deep recesses of midtown Manhattan, beneath a newly redesigned dining room and a kitchen that was still dealing with the tail end of lunch service on the day I visited, is the conference room of Le Bernardin. You feel a little helpless getting there, guided through winding hallways that seem endless, where staff from the restaurant — and other businesses housed within the same building — mingle and toil. But once there, you find a welcoming shelf of cookbooks, everything from Myhrvold to Girardet, as well as two whiteboards for menu planning and, fittingly, a couple of nondescript office chairs.
This is where the four-star chef Eric Ripert met me for an interview last week. We talked about Le Bernardin's evolution, both in terms of its cooking and service, the state of fine dining, and Ripert's particular management style.
Much has been written about the renovation of the space — the bar and lounge, the updated look, the ocean painting. But has the cooking changed at all?
Not really. The menu has changed 90 percent from September 6th to now, which is the fall. It's mostly seasonal. We have a mantra here that dictates the style of the cooking that we do, and that is that the fish is the star of the plate. It doesn't matter if we use molecular techniques or stay classic. At the end of the day, it's about enhancing the quality of the fish. That being said, from 1986, when Le Bernardin opened, and 1991, when I arrived, to now, our food has evolved.
I have been inspired by New York City, which means all of its cultures and ethnicities. I have been able to travel and I have matured. When I came here in 1991, I was relying a lot on Mediterranean influences, because it's where I grew up. I had one grandmother from Italy and one from Provence. I grew up in Andorra, which is basically Spain.
They're going to kill me in Andorra for saying that. Better to say, "I grew up in Andorra, which is in Andorra."
Now I have been to Asia and South America, I have seen new ingredients that we didn't have twenty years ago, and we have been exposed to new techniques, so the cooking has evolved.
And I imagine the service, too.
Yes. When Le Bernardin opened in 1986, it was very formal.
Yes. But slowly, slowly, slowly, it became more friendly. We didn't want to have a service style that would be as extreme as, "Hi, I'm Joe. I'll be your waiter tonight." There's no doubt that what we have will always be more retenu. However, we have made it more interactive. The waiters pour sauces and finish dishes tableside, and they can explain preparations to the diners. People can feel free to engage, if they wish. If they don't, we won't bother them, either.
Why did you risk alienating some clients by updating it?
Because we are not a church or a temple of anything. We are a restaurant where people come to have an experience. The experience can be for great food, for a celebration, for business, to have a romantic date. Anything goes. I don't want to use the word "robotic," but the service used to be somewhat formulaic. It was going to be the same for everyone, no matter what was going on at a table. Now, it's a bit more tailor-made and adaptive to each situation. It's more interesting.
Do you note that sort of change in fine dining, whether in New York or across the globe?
You still have some restaurants that are old-fashioned, and not in a bad way. They carry a certain tradition. And that applies worldwide: in Japan, in France, and even America. But you also have an evolution with some restaurants that cater to what people want. I think that we cater to a young audience. Of course our clients aren't all twenty years old, but we have a relatively big percentage of young people coming here. So, service and food evolved to cater to them. But as far as the jacket-required issue goes, I think that people like to dress up and enjoy an occasion. We have people who come here who have saved up to have a celebration, and they like to look nice. Therefore the whole "jacket required is out of fashion" criticism is total bullshit.
The décor was something from 1986 and the last thing we needed to change to deliver that experience. In 1986, the lighting wasn't important, but now there isn't one restaurant where that isn't studied. In 1986, it didn't matter if you had a bar or lounge for your clients to have a drink and wait.
Or a place for people to try your food without spending as much.
But we don't discount here. If we discount, we won't be able to keep the standards. Things are very well-priced here, and the margins are quite low. You can't come to the lounge and have a cheaper deal than in the dining room. It's a different experience. That wasn't because we wanted to give people a bargain.
But how do you react to backlash against fine dining, in a climate where so many people seem to be celebrating casual restaurants?
It's a paradox which I can't explain, because I am not an economist. The recession happened, and we didn't feel it in the restaurant. You can talk to Daniel, Jean-Georges, Thomas. The middle market has been crushed, but we are not suffering. I think we are still a very good value here. We're not a rational business. We don't create a dish because we have a price or profit in mind. We create it because we want to. The china we buy, if someone breaks a dish during service, that's basically the cost of the lunch.
I'm referring more to the perception of fine dining and the idea that you don't need all the bells and whistles.
The press has been writing about a lot of restaurants that open that are little bistros or cheap in terms of pricing. At the end of the day, what they deliver is very different from what we deliver. Supposedly there is a revolution now, where a chef in Paris opens up a place, is in a tiny kitchen by himself, and there's one menu per day. Like it is at Frenchie. If you think about it, it's somewhat similar to how it was with Maguy and Gilbert when they first opened in Paris with 20 seats. But they evolved and expanded to give clients more choices and to improve and to be consistent.
What the press is documenting as restaurants that are casual being successful while fine dining establishments being less successful or attractive is bogus. In January 2009, the country stopped. Everyone was scared to death. So I tried out an experiment, since we were doing well and were concerned with the 1.8 million hungry people in New York. We gave City Harvest a dollar from every customer that had come in that year. It was about $100,000. A luxurious restaurant did that many people that year, and that's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of dynamism and vibrancy. I strongly believe that we are craftsmen that deliver high quality.
There's that idea — you could call it a "myth" — that a chef needs to be in the kitchen often for the restaurant to be at the top of its game. For a chef with as much acclaim as you, you seem to have chosen to be here a lot instead of expanding or branding yourself to the extent you probably could. Why?
I'm here a lot because I want to be here. To put things into perspective, our saucier started before I was even here. My executive chef has been here for 18 years. Chef de cuisine? 18 years. I can go on and on and on. If after 18 years, they haven't understood my vision, we have a serious problem. Either I'm stupid and don't communicate well, or they are stupid and don't get it. I don't think I'm needed in the kitchen 24/7, but does it make a difference to be in the restaurant often compared to someone who will visit a place once a year? Of course, because you see things. At the same time, am I cooking every single dish for every single person? I wouldn't pay 40 guys if I could do that.
I could be somewhere else. I could open 20 restaurants. At the end of the day, it's about being happy in life. I think that Jean-Georges and Daniel, if they were me, they would be shooting themselves. Bored to death. But that's my personality. I like to be small. I have time to be with my family, time for myself, and time for my work.
The last thing I wanted to discuss is your management style. There's an episode of Avec Eric in which you talk to David Chang about the differences in how you handle pressure. You, as a Buddhist, seem to opt for patience and peace, when of course a lot of kitchens are known for screaming, physicality, and testosterone. Can you explain why you chose to be that way and assess how it's worked out for you?
I used to be a very authoritative chef — a young, borderline violent dictator. Very intolerant, insulting my cooks, screaming in the kitchen, breaking china. But I wasn't happy and my team wasn't happy. In 2000, I started to contemplate what had gone on in my career. I was losing a lot of employees and was confused. So I decided to change the way we manage people. I realized that you couldn't be happy if you had anger. It's a very simple thought. But it helped me decide to not be abusive any longer. We decided to change.
But how did you manage to transmit that to your staff?
It took me a long time to pass that to my cooks — there was a lot of resilience. I couldn't yell at someone for yelling, so I had to be very patient and explain that yelling is not good. First of all, you're not happy. Second, the cook you just yelled at is scared. Third, the team isn't happy. And it creates an ambiance in the kitchen which is not productive. I want a peaceful environment. It took us a while, but today we have arrived at a certain level of management where the team is happy to be together and work together, and it stays that way even at our busiest times. The chefs don't yell and scream, and there is no drama.
Sometimes we have lapses. It's not like every day is joyful. But when we have a bad day, we recognize it and try to compensate for the mistake and move on. Sometimes a guy will flip.
Do you ever flip?
The other day I said something mean to a sous chef. I didn't really scream, but I knew I got him. I regretted it, apologized, and that was that.
But I notice the success in the turnover. People will stay, even line cooks, for three years. They feel that they are part of the experiment, and they realize that you can do good food, under pressure, without being an asshole.
Before coronavirus struck New York, one of the world's premier seafood restaurants Le Bernardin was offering tasting menus including striped bass truffle tartare and grilled lobster mi-cuit.
Today it serves up hundreds of plastic trays of roast chicken, rice and cabbage to feed the city's medical workers.
Eric Ripert, a three-star chef originally from France, reopened one of his Manhattan kitchens on Wednesday for the first time since March 13 -- where from Monday to Friday four of his 180 currently unemployed staff will prepare some 400 daily meals.
Balanced menus including pasta bolognese with broccoli, meatloaf, couscous or tajine are set for delivery to health workers sheltering in the central neighborhood's hotels, who descended on the embattled city en masse to reinforce hospitals overwhelmed with patients.
"For now it's important to help out the overall community, specifically doctors and nurses," Ripert, donning a mask and gloves, told AFP.
The goal, said the renowned chef, is to assist "people who take enormous risks, see horrible things during the day -- when they return to their hotel, they can relax and eat something tasty."
Even if the pandemic has slowed its once relentless pace in New York, the city remains the nation's coronavirus epicenter, with more than 19,000 confirmed or probable deaths linked to COVID-19.
The 55-year-old Ripert's project to deliver meals is in collaboration with the Jose Andres-founded World Central Kitchen aid organization.
Authorities have not yet projected a date to begin relaxing confinement measures. Ripert hopes he might be able to re-open Le Bernardin in September.
Though that dream date seems far off and isn't fixed, he can't help but consider the famous restaurant post-pandemic.
He doesn't plan to offer elegant dishes to go, as some Michelin-starred chefs have done the world round -- but "it definitely won't be the same Bernardin it was before the closure," he said in a slight accent hailing from France's south, still audible despite 31 years in the United States.
Still, "Le Bernardin is a fancy restaurant with three Michelin stars -- we will try to continue to be able to create this experience for our diners," he said.
There will have to be more space between the tables and less capacity, said Ripert: currently, without counting two reception lounges, the restaurant can host 120 people.
Staff will need to work wearing masks and gloves while using plenty of disinfectant, Ripert emphasized.
But the economic equation remains in question for the restaurant co-owner, who is used to seeing his establishment full for both lunch and dinner.
Ripert, who since the pandemic began has posted simple, affordable recipes for his nearly 600,000 Instagram followers, declined to offer insight into his accounting.
But he expects he will need to reduce his staff from 180 pre-crisis down to 40 or 50 employees.
And international clientele, some 30 to 40 percent of his business, will likely drop off until foreign travel is once again in full swing.
But will he keep his stars?
"We will do everything we can to work for our diners to have a quality time at Le Bernardin, and keep our employees able to work," the chef said.
"Then the stars will come -- or not come.
"Today it's not really what's important, when we think of the global crisis we are living," he added.
Ripert doesn't doubt his adopted home's ability to bounce back.
"We're not going to overnight -- to be as full of energy as we were takes time," he said.
"But New York will always be New York, and New York will return to the level it was," said Ripert, complete with the "creativity and energy" the city embodies.
Lunch at Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin is Eric Ripert’s world famous, three Michelin star restaurant in Midtown where the dinner tasting menu will run you $187 per person, $282 if you include a wine pairing. A meal here may seem inaccessible, but one trick to getting around the prices is to eat in the Lounge, where you can order off of the a la carte menu or enjoy the $57 3 course City Harvest prix-fixe, which is offered exclusively in the Lounge.
The Lounge takes walk-ins, but because Le Bernardin is so sought after, you’ll find that most of the seats will be occupied during prime dining hours. Get there early, or take your chances and wait for a seat to open up while having a glass of wine at neighboring Aldo Sohm, which is the wine bar run by Le Bernardin’s master sommelier. I was nearly denied a seat when I dropped by Le Bernardin on a weekday at around 12 pm, expecting the Lounge to be 70% full only to discover that it was at capacity. Luckily two seats at the bar opened up right when I was about to walk out.
sea scallop with shaved fennel and a citrus vinaigrette carrot soup with maine lobster and yuzu foam
What I like about the City Harvest prix-fixe is that it is a very edited menu that showcases Le Bernardin’s strengths in seafood. For our first course, we had the option of sea scallop or carrot soup with maine lobster. Eating carrots often sounds like a chore, but this velvety and creamy soup was such a pleasure. Even better was that they were generous with the lobster. You can’t go wrong with the sea scallops either, which were served cold and raw in a slightly sweet sauce with a little heat, but ultimately it’s the carrot soup that I still remember.
baked striped bass with a sweet potato sofrito sauce sauteed merluza with pea shoots in a shiitake mushroom broth
For the second course, it was between two fish, a merluza and a sea bass, and the merluza was the clear winner by a comfortable margin. Merluza, as an fyi, is also known as hake, a flaky whitefish that is similar to cod. The fillet was cooked with crispy and golden edges all around and was placed on top of some pea shoots and immersed in a tranquil dashi broth. I’ve noticed that Le Bernardin’s Asian inspired dishes are particularly strong. While the sea bass, on the other hand, was prepared with some Latin flavors, reminding me of something Tex Mex that Bobby Flay would make at his former Mesa Grill restaurant.
banana s’more – caramelized banana with warm chocolate cake and a smoked meringue coquito sauce selection of ice creams and sorbet – tahitian vanilla, clementine, yuzu coconut and pear shortbread cookies
I actually preferred the very basic dessert of the selection of ice creams to the intricate banana s’more. The s’more was a little too complicated, an impressive architectural marvel, for sure, but it didn’t quite capture the gooey, messy essence of this childhood treat. Scoops of ice cream and sorbet might seem boring by comparison, but the flavor selection–Tahitian vanilla, clementine, yuzu coconut and pear–was quite tantalizing.
Even with the three course prix-fixe, we still enjoyed unlimited servings from the bread basket (would highly recommend the baguette and the cranberry walnut) and also some sweet treats at the end. It’s a relative bargain compared to what a full tasting would cost you, yet it still captures the essence of the cooking at Le Bernardin in a very efficient way. Michelin meals, especially three star ones, don’t come cheap, so this City Harvest prix-fixe is one of my favorite deals in the city.
155 W 51st St (between 7th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
Reservations for main dining room here. Lounge takes walk-ins.