How did Eric Ripert develop a passion for food?
It all started at a very young age. I was always hanging in the kitchens of my grandmothers, my aunt, my mother. And it was two styles of cuisine that I was exposed to as a younger child. My mom was cooking very inspired from the world cuisine, a very kind of refined cuisine. Lunch and dinner, we had a beautiful setting on the table, and she was putting a lot of effort into the presentation, and it was very refined — almost like a restaurant experience. And then, my grandmothers were cooking soul food — one from Provence and one from Italy — and presentation is not as, and refinement is not as, important, but the flavors are amazing. And I developed a taste for eating and having great food.
Being kind of a bad student in school, I ended at age 15 in the office of the principal with my parents. He really highly recommended that we find a vocational school for myself, and I was thrilled because I wanted to become a chef. I wanted to cook. I had very little experience. I was always in a kitchen, but did very little except eating or help a little bit, but not professionally, obviously. So, I went to culinary school to study, graduated, and then, started in some kitchen in Paris the hard way. And my passion was so strong, I survived the struggle to become, first of all, a good cook, then obviously, a chef.