32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Hailed by Anthony Bourdain as “heartbreaking, horrifying, poignant, and inspiring,” 32 Yolks is the brave and affecting coming-of-age story about the making of a French chef, from the culinary icon behind the renowned New York City restaurant Le Bernardin.
In an industry where celebrity chefs are known as much for their salty talk and quick tempers as their food, Eric Ripert stands out. The winner of four James Beard Awards, co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant, and recipient of countless Michelin stars, Ripert embodies elegance and culinary perfection. But before the accolades, before he even knew how to make a proper hollandaise sauce, Eric Ripert was a lonely young boy in the south of France whose life was falling apart.
Ripert’s parents divorced when he was six, separating him from the father he idolized and replacing him with a cold, bullying stepfather who insisted that Ripert be sent away to boarding school. A few years later, Ripert’s father died on a hiking trip. Through these tough times, the one thing that gave Ripert comfort was food. Told that boys had no place in the kitchen, Ripert would instead watch from the doorway as his mother rolled couscous by hand or his grandmother pressed out the buttery dough for the treat he loved above all others, tarte aux pommes. When an eccentric local chef took him under his wing, an eleven-year-old Ripert realized that food was more than just an escape: It was his calling. That passion would carry him through the drudgery of culinary school and into the high-pressure world of Paris’s most elite restaurants, where Ripert discovered that learning to cook was the easy part—surviving the line was the battle.
Taking us from Eric Ripert’s childhood in the south of France and the mountains of Andorra into the demanding kitchens of such legendary Parisian chefs as Joël Robuchon and Dominique Bouchet, until, at the age of twenty-four, Ripert made his way to the United States, 32 Yolks is the tender and richly told story of how one of our greatest living chefs found himself—and his home—in the kitchen.
Praise for Eric Ripert’s 32 Yolks
“Passionate, poetical . . . What makes 32 Yolks compelling is the honesty and laudable humility Ripert brings to the telling.”—Chicago Tribune
“With a vulnerability and honesty that is breathtaking . . . Ripert takes us into the mind of a boy with thoughts so sweet they will cause you to weep. He also lets us into the mind of the man he is today, revealing all the golden cracks and chips that made him more valuable to those around him.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Eric Ripert makes magic with 32 Yolks.”—Vanity Fair
“32 Yolks may not be what you’d expect from a charming, Emmy-winning cooking show host and cookbook author. In the book, there are, of course, scenes of elaborate meals both eaten and prepared. . . . But Ripert’s story is, for the most part, one of profound loss.”—Los Angeles Times
“This book demonstrates just how amazing Eric’s life has been both inside and outside of the kitchen. It makes total sense now to see him become one of the greatest chefs in the world today. This is a portrait of a chef as a young man.”—David Chang
“Eric Ripert is known around the world for his talent and passion for food. I have been friends with him for half his life, but his memoir let me discover more about his past. His journey from Andorra to Manhattan is full of adventure, hard work, and ambition, and it is an inspiration to us all.”—Daniel Boulud
the stress, but I stayed calm. In went the tomato paste with the onions and paprika. Finally, the fond de veau, or veal stock, was poured in and I left it to simmer. I could tell from the rich aroma that M. Korbel had taught me well. Now I had to tourner a basket of potatoes, giving each one seven neat, even faces so that they were identically carved into a shape something like an American football. The rice pilaf was technically trickier: I packed the cooked rice into a baba au rhum mold and
my answer. “Oh, I think you’re in the right place.” I nodded again. I knew that I was in the right place. He stood, smiling broadly, and shook my hand. “Can you start at the end of the month?” As I walked out of the office, feeling both triumphant and nervous, I heard a familiar voice. “Oh, mon dieu!” It was Maurice, standing over a pot, simmering fish bones for stock. The pan was not as big as the stockpots I’d seen in other restaurants. This, I would later learn, was by design. Robuchon
impossible to produce what was needed for twenty diners in the allotted time because each plate required so much attention to detail and precision. Even Robuchon had to admit that sometimes what he asked us to do bordered on impossible. Once he came up with the idea to do red pepper lobster mousse with a gazpacho vinaigrette. We tried that dish for days but in the end, none of us could make it to satisfaction: the texture was hard to manipulate, and the combination with the lobster, while
cosmopolitan. Before Georges, I had never had any contact with a real gentleman farmer. I had no real experience with rural living. Georges and the people who worked for him were amazingly efficient in every way. They used every bit of land they owned, they used every part of the food they got. Georges and his extended group of family and friends were—and remain—great, great people. They prepared me for my next stage of cooking—working for Jean-Louis Palladin. Palladin was from that part of the
Paris to Washington, D.C. My mother drove me to the airport in Toulouse and, as we had so many times before, we drove to the top of the mountain and there at the very top, we crossed the border from Andorra to France. When we got to the border, my mother stopped the car and gave the customs agents our documents. I remember her saying, with great pride, “My son has been invited to be a chef in America. Look at him, he’s still just a kid and he’s already made his name in Paris. They have invited