As Le Bernardin joins Relais & Châteaux, Chef Éric Ripert becomes a part of the organization he has revered for decades.
Éric Ripert was a Relais & Châteaux fan from a very early age. “I grew up a spoiled kid,” the French chef says. “Every time I got a good grade, my gift was a Relais & Châteaux experience. I did not want a bicycle or a toy. I wanted that unforgettable Relais & Châteaux experience.”
Ripert’s most recent Relais & Châteaux experience was no doubt his most unforgettable: On February 1, his three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Bernardin joined the prestigious hospitality association. The occasion was marked by a three-course lunch attended by some of the organization’s most prominent figures, among them president Philippe Gombert and vice-president Olivier Roellinger.
“Éric is such an iconic and respected chef and we are very happy to welcome him within our network,” Roellinger said in an address at the lunch. “Cuisine is at the core of Relais & Châteaux, and we believe more than ever that cuisine is essential in today’s society.”
Indeed, gastronomy is at the heart of the 63-year-old association, which counts such acclaimed establishments as Joël Robuchon’s La Grande Maison, Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, and Thomas Keller’s Per Se among its portfolio of restaurants. Le Bernardin—and Ripert—have claimed a spot among such admirable company for good reason. Launched in Paris in 1972, the restaurant was initially the creation of siblings Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze.
By 1980, the duo had garnered two Michelin stars for their impeccable seafood dishes. Rather than rest on their laurels, the Le Cozes took their treasure to New York, opening a new Le Bernardin outpost in 1986. In 1994, Ripert—a former protégé of Joël Robuchon and David Bouley—joined the restaurant, and in short order catapulted it to the top of Manhattan’s culinary scene, garnering the highest accolades from the James Beard Foundation, S. Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Michelin Guide, and more.
To celebrate his latest accolade, Ripert led his lunch guests in a heart-felt toast, professing his love not only for food, but also for the Relais & Châteaux brand. “I love the art of hospitality—and people in this network love to create an experience that is unique and unforgettable,” he said. “In addition to creating something delicious, I too am dedicated to the delivery of something unique.” And with that, the first course—a mouth-watering osetra caviar tartare over lightly-smoke dashi gelée—was served.