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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

En español | How many times have we heard that New York City is cold and indifferent? There’s a bit of truth to that, but those who really know this city can attest to its kindness and compassion toward those most in need. On this stage enters City Harvest, an organization founded in 1982 to alleviate hunger among New Yorkers. Each year, close to 27 million pounds of food are distributed among the neediest all over the city. The food comes from markets, stores, cafeterias and restaurants, from the smallest and most humble to the most prestigious, exclusive and globally renowned ones.

This last category describes Le Bernardin, a French restaurant that has earned a four star rating from The New York Times and has been honored with three stars by Michelin. If you are a culinary professional, then you already know this represents the maximum achievement, the pinnacle of success. And yet, for Eric Ripert, co-owner and Executive Chef, personal fulfillment doesn’t end with those well-deserved stars. He goes beyond the call, to the sphere of humanitarian aid. For this, Ripert also deserves as many stars as possible.

Le Bernardin donates more than 30,000 pounds of food every year, to date totaling over 200,000 pounds of high quality products. Every day, a City Harvest truck arrives at the restaurant to pick up dozens of pounds of top quality vegetables, fish and meats. Ripert has made much of this project his own, heading the organization’s Food Council, a group of more than 75 chefs and restaurant owners who have joined forces to fight hunger in the city. Today, Ripert considers his work with City Harvest an essential part of his life and career.

“Ripert is one of the project’s champions and daily contributors,” says Jilly Stephens, City Harvest’s Executive Director. “He has donated incredible auction prizes and has raised thousands of dollars in donations. He has even implemented a fixed price menu named after City Harvest in his restaurant to raise funds in support of our work.”

Every little bit helps

What made you get involved with this organization?

“I have my health, a restaurant that is doing very well, and I live in New York, the center of capitalism but a place where many people do not have the money to buy fresh food,” he tells me. “I live in a city that has many riches but also extreme poverty, and I decided I would do my part.”

During our conversation, Ripert spoke about the exhilarating growth City Harvest has experienced in the last 18 years, growth in both to the number of people and businesses that participate and in the amount of donations received. He also claims to have learned that hunger is not only something helpless people in extreme circumstances bear; it is also a phenomenon affecting working families.

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