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Eric Ripert on being a chef, Le Bernardin and cooking at home

Chef Eric Ripert says as a kid growing up in Europe, his parents thought consuming beef and veal brains would make kids smarter. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what’s on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.

At his acclaimed, Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Bernardin, chef Eric Ripert serves up seafood delicacies like scallops, lobster and octopus. But something the French chef will never add to his menu is brains.

“I basically eat everything except for brains,” Ripert tells Yahoo Life. “I do not like brains.

“We don’t find them too much in the U.S., but when I lived in Europe in the ’60s and ’70s, parents believed that feeding brains to the babies and the toddlers would make them very very smart,” he explains. “My parents were always trying to feed me some brains and I hated it so much, I would use my spoon as a catapult, take pieces of brain and throw them throughout the kitchen. It’s something that, to this day, I really cannot eat.”

Beyond his aversion to calf and veal brains, a delicacy in France, Ripert says he has “very simple tastes.” His go-to pizza order is simple: “I like pizza with tomato, mozzarella and basil on top,” he says. “That’s it. I don’t put anything else on it.”

At home, he loves to cook “basically everything” for his family. “Except that I’m a very bad baker,” he clarifies, “so I do not bake for myself or my family because the results are fairly mediocre.”

But when he’s entertaining, what’s Ripert’s favorite dinner to prepare for guests? The 58-year-old Top Chef guest judge says he loves making a good holiday meal.

“Christmas is probably the most interesting [meal I make for guests] because it’s very family-oriented,” he shares. “We invite family and a couple of our very dear friends and neighbors and we make [the meal] very traditional, the French way.

“The French way,” he explains, “is to always start with smoked salmon and oysters and caviar. You start your meal like that and then, we have what you celebrate in America — which is Thanksgiving — we do the same meal for Christmas. We have a turkey — the French turkeys are much smaller than American turkeys, however we stuff them with truffles and we add root vegetables. We always have a cheese tray because it’s no French meal without cheese. And then, we have a Christmas log, which is basically a cake in the form of the branch of a tree.”

No matter the size of the dinner party, Ripert says the key is to “be very organized beforehand and to keep it simple.”

“It requires a little bit of thinking ahead of your party, but what you don’t want is to be stressed when your guests arrive,” he continues. “You don’t want to be busy and turn your back on your guests while they are with you, so make a menu that is not too complicated and doesn’t require all your guests to help you.”

Ripert spoke to Yahoo Life as part of the launch of the Flavrs app, a food-focused app that pairs videos of chefs instructing users on how to make recipes with the ability to order ingredients from grocery delivery services straight from the app.

“Flavrs is incredible because it’s the first time you can have an app that allows you to follow a chef and see a very simple recipe you can reproduce at home in a very timely manner and then, on top of that, the app allows you to order the products that you need,” says Ripert, who joined the app as a creator when it was launched. “You may need all the ingredients or you may need only one or two ingredients, but you just click and choose who’s going to deliver them to your door. It’s revolutionary because, until now, nobody has done it.”

With so many years in the restaurant industry, Ripert says he finds technological advances like the Flavrs app to be impressive, not intimidating. “I think technology can be used in many ways and it’s possible for it to make life simpler,” he says. “It makes things less difficult to achieve, like cooking a good meal at home.”

So what has the author of 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line found the most rewarding — and most difficult — about his impressive culinary career?

“The most rewarding thing is that, when you are a chef, you usually follow your passion,” he says. “It’s hard to be a chef if you don’t have passion for cooking. To feed people is also very rewarding — not only the process of cooking but feeding people and seeing their reaction.

“What’s very difficult is that kitchens are, by nature, extremely hot and humid,” says Ripert. “It’s not easy to be in a kitchen on your feet all day long for so many days a week for so many hours … that sometimes is a bit stressful, but there are not too many downsides.”

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