We know he’s an icon, but is it also OK to say that we have a huge crush on Eric Ripert here at The New Potato (or this week should I say, The New, New Potato?). To us, Ripert is what we are all about – food as an experience, and Ripert’s Le Bernardin has been bringing the absolute best food experience to New Yorkers for almost three decades now. The chef himself is the epitome of that perfect balance between flawless traditional technique and sexy, innovative food. Have we mentioned we’re also nominating Ripert for People Magazine’s next Sexiest Man Alive? We hung out in the Le Bernardin dining room chatting, shooting photos, and watching Chef Ripert taking Instagrams – chefs, they’re just like us!
What would be your ideal food day?
Well, I’d like to start in Paris for breakfast because (especially in Saint-Germain-des-Prés) they have some great cafés. I’m a café au lait guy, croissants, pain au chocolat – all those things. So we’ll start there.
Then for lunch I’d go to Thailand. I would be in Thailand in the streets by the market. They have a fantastic market in Bangkok; I would be there for lunch.
Tea time in London; why not? In the Mayfair area, maybe at Harrods, because Harrods is a fantastic store and the food is amazing.
For dinner I would be in Tokyo at Sukiyabashi Jiro having sushi. I ate there it was amazing. That would be one of my ideal days.
What do you attribute Le Bernardin’s timelessness and longevity to?
New York inspires us a lot so it’s a normal process. We are creative and if you are creative your environment influences you. The city constantly renews itself and reinvents itself and therefore we do the same. We constantly reinvent ourselves in subtle ways. We have a clientele that has its usual habits and so on; we have a new clientele that comes all the time, and then we have tourists.
However the service, the style of the service, the food, the experience with the wine and the experience as a whole has changed over the years. I was not even here in 1986 but back then Le Bernardin was a very formal place with very formal service. Today it’s a much more friendly place; it’s much more relaxed.
A couple of years ago we were like, ‘Wow, we have changed so much over the years, and our food has evolved so much as well. But we still have this décor that is from the 80’s.’ It was still very formal in a sense. We didn’t have a lounge; instead it was just a waiting area. So we wanted to have the décor following what we had done with the service and the food. We wanted to have harmony between the three components that create the experience. The décor, the service and wine combined together.
When you did that redesign how did you make sure to keep with the legacy of the restaurant?
The legacy is important for us obviously. So Grandpa (points to painting above bar) was here before. He’s in the same spot. He’s keeping an eye on the entrance and the bar. Grandpa was a fisherman. He’s not my Grandpa; he’s Maguy Le Coze’s Grandpa in Brittany [France]. We kept him and for us he’s very iconic in a sense. This ceiling – obviously when renovating we cleaned it and so on – was the ceiling from the original opening. So the entire ceiling hasn’t changed at all. So I think that creates the bridge between the past and the present.
Then we went to see the architects and we gave them a couple of words that would dictate the design. “Comfortable” is an obvious one, “luxury”… Then we added one word that we never thought an upscale restaurant would call for if you’d asked us 15 or 20 years ago. We said, “We want the restaurant to be sexy.” I think today – and obviously again I’m biased – but I think we have that sexy element here. Because of the way it’s designed but also because of the lighting and all of the elements working together.