The 3 Chefs Eric Ripert Views As His Mentors

A mentor is a valuable asset in any industry. A productive mentor-mentee relationship allows up-and-comers to learn from established professionals in a supportive environment while allowing a newbie to explore their strengths as they develop their own, unique style. That kind of relationship may be more ingrained in the world of professional cooking than in any other industry. And even some of the world's most accomplished chefs — those with restaurants, awards, cookbooks, and television shows — started out as beginners. The lucky ones had a good, solid mentor. Eric Ripert had three.

In an article about the significance of mentors in the culinary world, the James Beard Foundation cites the hierarchy of the kitchen and the fact that even newly minted chefs who hold culinary degrees usually start out as apprentices, learning ropes from more experienced chefs, which inevitably leads to mentees picking up bits and pieces of their mentors' cooking style. Throughout his career, Ripert has widely acknowledged the influence his mentors, Jean-Louis Palladin and Joël Robuchon, have had on his success in the culinary world. A few years ago, in an article he wrote for Wine Spectator, he added the late Gilbert Le Coze to his list of mentors who made an impact on his life.

What goes round, comes round

Ripert was already an accomplished chef in the mid-1990s when Le Coze recruited him to work at New York City's Le Bernardin. Ripert credits Le Coze, who died in 1994 shortly after hiring him, with elevating his take on seafood. "When I began to work at Le Bernardin, I thought that I was pretty complete in my training in cooking seafood, having worked for Robuchon and Palladin," Ripert wrote for Wine Spectator. "Gilbert, however, taught me many new techniques, and shared with me his philosophy about seafood."

Earlier in his career, Ripert worked under the tutelage of the late Robuchon at Jamin in Paris where, as he recalled for Michelin Guide in 2022, he honed his skills and learned discipline. Ripert met his third mentor, the late Palladin, the chef he credits with fostering his creativity, in 1989 when he accepted the position of sous chef at Jean Louis in Washington, D.C.'s Watergate Hotel.

And now, the mentee has become the mentor, paying it forward, so to speak. But it's not a one-way street. When asked by FSR magazine in 2018 if mentoring new chefs reinforces his own creativity, Ripert replied, "Definitely. It cultivates creativity. It is almost like going to the gym for your muscles. This is like training your brain in a certain way."