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Ripert, Chef and Philanthropist

Chef Eric Ripert heads the campaign against hunger in New York with his work at City Harvest.

Eric Ripert, Chef and Philanthropist

Chef Eric Ripert has also donated his time to community work. — J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Eric Ripert has experimented with and studied cooking from around the world, excelling, naturally, in French cooking, as he was born in Antibes, France, and was raised as a youth in Andorra, a small country between France and Spain. He also conspiratorially mentions Puerto Rican cooking, with which he has firsthand experience, his wife hailing from Puerto Rico.

When I ask him what has most influenced him, he answers simply: “My grandmothers, my aunts and my mother, traditional cooking, and the great masters I worked with, among them Joël Robuchon and Jean-Louis Palladin. Puerto Rico continues being my inspiration. In reality, the entire Caribbean and also Mexico, Brazil and Peru.”

Ripert defines himself as a man completely dedicated to his work, who only thinks about working and serving others, not about success or fame. This is precisely his advice to the new generations of chefs who aspire to reach the same stature and prestige that he’s earned after many years: put your entire heart into everything you do, without thinking about what people will say, only on what you can give.

You don’t have to be rich to eat well

City Harvest doesn’t only provide food to the neediest. It is also teaching thousands of people to prepare healthier food, in which vegetable, together with grains we have often never heard of, play a very important and nutritional role.

“Everyone wants to eat healthy,” says Ripert. “But there are people who can’t afford to buy organic products, and thus do not eat them. Access to organic foods is often considered a luxury, something for the rich. But this is changing; little by little we are seeing more affordable organic foodstuffs.”

This is a revolutionary nutritional concept, based on the principle that you don’t have to be rich to eat well, in which creativity, the willingness to try new flavors, ingredients from other cultures, and being interested in the health benefits of a balanced diet play key roles.

I asked him what he would recommend to Hispanics, who often associate eating well with a full plate. His words reveal a philosophy of balance: “Don’t eat a lot. There are many cases of diabetes among Hispanics. Above all, do not eat so much fried food. Eating sweets doesn’t hurt as long as it’s done in moderation. It is better to balance the diet with vegetables, fruits and fiber.”

I asked him if he thought this balanced diet would be adopted in our culture. He smiled and answered with his own question: “Do you think anyone thought an effort like City Harvest would be possible in a city like New York?”

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