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How Eric Ripert Became a Restaurant Legend Without Working Himself to Death

How Eric Ripert Became a Restaurant Legend Without Working Himself to Death Bloomberg Business


In the mornings, chef Eric Ripert spends about an hour in his meditation room in his apartment on the Upper East Side. He describes it as a sparsely furnished, simple, windowless spot where he can sit and think. It’s his own space, and even the cat, he says, knows not to wander in. “I don’t know how he knows,” says Ripert in his heavy French accent, “but he knows. I never told him.” This hour of contemplation is how Ripert starts a day that might end, as one did recently, with the credit-card-processing system breaking down in his restaurant, Le Bernardin, one of the most lauded, and expensive, in the world. When that happened, parties with checks in the thousands were left sitting as waiters rushed in a professional, silent, definitely anxious way to handle payments using a backup machine downstairs. But calm prevailed, and it radiated from Ripert. As one of his sommeliers, Juan Gargano, puts it, “He is the sensei master. He is truly tranquil. I’ve worked for other celebrity chefs, and he is completely different.”

Most chefs with a media presence spend their time multiplying outlets, turning themselves into brands that can span everything from hamburger joints to cookware. Wolfgang Puck has more than 20 restaurants, and that’s just in the fine dining group. Danny Meyer is running a dozen establishments and more than 60 Shake Shacks, which are expected to do more than $160 million in sales in 2015. Ripert is an exception. Although he appears regularly in the media and runs a small restaurant in the Cayman Islands, called Blue by Eric Ripert, he is, for the most part, local and focused. And he’s surely leaving millions of dollars on the table. “I’ve reached my level of contentment career-wise,” he says. “I’m very happy not to expand to other restaurants.” 

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Sometimes happiness is about doing less, not more. 

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