As executive chef at the award-winning New York City restaurant Le Bernadin, Eric Ripert is, as Dr. Oz puts it, "the Derek Jeter of chefs." Since he started running the kitchen at Le Bernadin, the Antibes, France, native has been named Outstanding Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and GQ has hailed Le Bernadin as Best Restaurant in America. Eric is also the chairman of City Harvest, an organization in New York City that delivers restaurant leftovers to shelters around the city.
Recently, Eric and Dr. Oz traded places—Dr. Oz helped organize food delivery at Le Bernadin, and Eric watched heart surgery and did rounds—for the article "Eric and Oz Do the Ol' Switcheroo" in Esquire magazine. During the swap, Eric and Dr. Oz realized there are some common traits necessary to be the best in any field:
Drive: "I had a very strong passion and very strong will to succeed in cooking," Eric says.
Instinct: "When you cut an onion, you have to think like an onion," Eric says. "You have to understand how the onion is going to react and anticipate the evolution in flavor and texture of that onion." Eric says that over time this knowledge becomes instinctive and that instinct is what separates the experts from the beginners in any profession. "If being the best was only about technique, eventually robots could do it," he says. "But instinct makes you the greatest at what you do."
Balance: Dr. Oz says it's important to find the right pace for growth in any field. Eric found his pace by maintaining a balance between his professional, public and personal life. "I have my own rhythm—I don't care if I don't have my own restaurant or a line of knives with my name," he says. "I'm going at my pace, and when I feel comfortable, I move to the next step."
As for working in the kitchen, Eric says anyone can become a good cook! He shares simple tips for whipping up a meal at home:
Make sure you use quality ingredients. "Cooking starts with shopping," Eric says. "You need to look for the best ingredients you can find within your budget."
Trust your eyes. If food doesn't look appetizing, your senses are telling you to watch out. If it appeals to your eyes, it will probably also appeal to your taste buds.
Start simple. "Cooking doesn't have to be time-consuming and complicated," he says. "Using your broiler is easy—just add a bit of olive oil and wait until your food starts to color."
Taste your food. Eric says that one of the biggest problems people have when they cook is that they forgot to try what they've made so they don't know what they are serving.