The new memoir is out, “32 Yolks” by Eric Ripert. I heard his interview on NPR and tonight got to see him in person.
He was interviewed by Los Angeles Times food critic and Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Gold at the South Pasadena Library.
Ripert, born and raised in France is a handsome man of elegance and ease, reflected on his arduous climb to the pinnacle of the culinary world. Being a top chef was a dream he’d had since he was a boy hanging out after school in a local chef’s kitchen, polishing off bowls of chocolate mousse. As an attendee to the paid event, we were treated to a small cup of chocolate mousse, not made by him but from one of his recipes.
I always had a passion for eating — and for good ingredients, he said.
He shared that his first task of the day is to sample the sauces, in his bustling kitchen, staffed by more than 50 cooks. It’s hardly a simple task. The sauce station is the toughest in the kitchen.
It’s not just about capturing flavors, but by keeping them calibrated all night long.
“32 Yolks” refers to his disastrous first day at La Tour d’Argent, his first job out of culinary school. He was asked to mince some shallots. He sliced his finger open on the first one. Then, he was asked to take 32 yolks and make a hollandaise sauce. He bombed.
And worse was to come. Ripert’s next boss, culinary wizard Joel Robuchon, was obsessed with earning a third Michelin star, and worked his staff to unbearable extremes. He added that Robuchon in his mania for perfection insisted that his chefs peel hot potatoes with their bare hands as quickly as possible and place them through a sieve with equal parts of butter. Ironically, eating the mashed potatoes at L’Atelier in Las Vegas is the one thing I most distinctly remember from my birthday meal experience ….now I know why- gobs of butter.
Ripert, a Buddhist spoke about the cruelty and abuse that takes place in a kitchen. A sensitive soul with finesse and frankness, he reminsced about his childhood, the happy times in his mother’s kitchen and and the unhappy times after his parents divorced, with his stepfather, who verbally abused him, and made his home life hell. Throughout, the tough times, food saved him and eventually landed him in culinary school and helped launch his career.