Eric Ripert, born in southern France, is a celebrity chef who has had tremendous influence over French cuisine in the United States over the last 20 years. Since 1994, his work at New York's Le Bernardin has helped inspire chefs to expand the possibilities of French cuisine through incorporating and exploring myriad ingredients and styles, most notably from Latin America and East Asia. The primarily seafood restaurant has been consistently ranked among the best in the world on several publications, including S. Pellegrino, The New York Times, and Michelin. Food Tank was interested in what Ripert thinks about some of the most pressing food system issues we face today.
FT: Have you noticed American palates changing over your career in the U.S.?
Eric Ripert (ER): Yes, in the last 30 years there has been a tremendous change in freshness and availability of products. The media, in general, helped a lot to create interest about new eating habits. Metropoles like NYC have a lot to offer by way of different cuisines, and the clientele is much more curious and adventurous with food than before.
FT: From an ethical perspective, how important is it to find solutions to the food waste problem in a world where many people do not have enough to eat?
ER: It’s hugely important. It’s an ethical issue that needs to be resolved. We cannot have on the same block people eating well and others struggling to feed their family. In New York, the community is very aware and proactive at tackling these issues.
FT: How have your religious beliefs affected how you approach food waste and food insecurity?
ER: Food waste and food insecurity is a secular problem and not a religion problem. Anything I do that inspires people to take action is based on logic and good ethics.
FT: How important is it for young chefs to know where food comes from, who provides it, and the practices involved in production?
ER: Freshness is key and it is essential to know the source of ingredients and to therefore be able to choose between farmers and growers who use good practices for the wellbeing of the planet.
FT: Farmers and cooks provide some of the most important products and services. Why are they normally paid so low, and what can we do to improve their status?
ER: The cost of food in America, in percentage, is one of the lowest on the planet. By paying a fair and higher price, we will help people at the source to have a better living.
FT: What role can chefs play in fighting the global obesity problem?
ER: Bringing awareness to fight this issue is a good thing. However, it is not solely the duty of chefs to do that. It is also the responsibility of individuals and other professionals etc.