Chef Eric Ripert Shares His Favorite Recipe From Mom (2024)

Harper's Bazaar: You gave us your mother's recipe for Les Nems, aka Vietnamese spring rolls. When didshe make them for you?

Eric Ripert: We lived in St. Tropez when I was young, and there were a lot of Vietnamese refugees in France at the time, after the war. My mother had many Vietnamese friends who entertained a lot, and she was taught how to make that spring roll. She would make them all the time. As soon as I see them, it brings memories. I would eat dozens of them. I was unstoppable. To this day, I can eat 12 of them, no problem. My son is following in my path. He can have eight or nine.

HB: Does your son have any foodie ambitions?

ER: So far, in cooking, no. Just eating. He's very clear about that. He has no intention of cooking or cleaning; he just wants to eat. But we are very similar—exactly like me, he can eat nonstop.

HB: What's your earliest cooking memory?

ER: I was perhaps three or four. It's strange—I have very vivid memories of being a young child. My mother would create dinner as for us, and when she would bake, she would leave some dough for me. I would roll the dough into little sticks while she was cooking the apple tart of whatever. I was looking through the window of the oven and flipping the light, and then my bread would come out, and it was inedible, of course. But I thought it was delicious. I have more eating memories than cooking memories and many memories of being in the kitchen—I was always attracted to the kitchen—but nobody ever wanted me to touch anything.

HB: What other dishes remind you of childhood?

ER: Apple tart because, then, it was my favorite. My mother and my grandmother would make an apple tart in different styles, and I had one per day. Every day I would eat one full apple tart.

HB: Were you active as a child?

ER: Yes, I was—because I was very mischievous, and therefore I had to run for my life!

HB: What about now?

ER: Just walking in the kitchen (and we have three kitchens at Le Bernardin), I exercise quite a lot. I also walk in Central Park for 50 minutes from my house to Le Bernardin every day, rain, shine, snow.

HB: When did you realize you wanted to be a chef professionally?

ER: I had a passion for cooking, and I was a very bad student. At 15, I had to choose a vocational school, and I was delighted, of course, to go to culinary school. But learning the basics was not as exciting as being the chef I am today. When I started to work in Paris in fine dining, the passion really kicked in, and I knew that I would not, for the rest of my life, do anything else.

HB: Tell me about the recipe that gave rise to the title of your memoir, 32 Yolks.

ER: It was my first day working at Tour d'Argent, a famous restaurant in Paris, in 1982, and they were celebrating their 400th anniversary. I am in the fish station and after many mistakes, including cutting myself after 30 seconds in that kitchen, the chef said, "Make a Hollandaise sauce with 32 yolks." It takes me forever to separate the yolks from the whites, and I put them in a bowl and try to go close to the stove, but the stove is way too hot for me. (I think, in retrospect, he may have pranked me.) Then I try to basically make a sauvignon, which is a foam from the egg yolks, but my arm is not strong enough. The mass of the yolks is too heavy; the stove is too hot. Instead of making that light sauvignon, I make basically, like, dry scrambled eggs. It's when I realized, "Hm, I'm not that good at all. It will take me weeks, maybe months, to master the 32 yolks." When I did, it was a turning point in my career.

HB: Are you going to be cooking a special Mother's Day dish for your wife this weekend?

ER: Yes. You have to cook for mom. I'll go to the market, and, depending on the vegetables I find, I'm either going to do a stuffed chicken with fava beans and asparagus or a lamb stew called navarin printanier.

HB: Does your mother still cook for you?

ER: Yes, actually she really wants me to eat her food, especially apple tart.

HB: Do you ever cook together?

ER: Actually no. It's either her or me. I heard her, when I was in culinary school, complaining that I was very messy. When I go visit her (she lives near Barcelona), she still pushes me out of the kitchen. When she comes here, I'm like, "This is my kitchen!"

HB: What's your favorite dish to make for yourself?

ER: I love eggs. When it's the season of truffles, scrambled eggs with truffles, and I'm happy. I'm smiling like that.

HB: Other than Le Bernardin, of course, where do you dine out?

ER: A new find was La Sirena, the new restaurant by Mario Batali. And it happened that I went to Del Posto, which is Mario again, last week.

HB: What are some of your non-food interests that may surprise people?

ER: I am an audiophile. It's almost like a virus. I'm completely crazy about the quality of sound. It's interesting and painful at the same time; you have to really spend a lot of money on the equipment.

HB: What do you listen to when you cook?

ER: A lot of techno. In New York there used to be some very good clubs with amazing sound systems. Techno was part of the process. Today, because I want to be gentle on my back, I listen to jazz.

HB: Do you notice the sound quality at clubs?

ER: Oh, immediately. I'm very sensitive to it. Actually, if I go to a nightclub, even if the music is good, if the sound system is not, I don't stay.

HB: Do you like to dance?

ER: Yeah! I'm very bad, but I like to dance. I was at Tao two weeks ago, at the night club, and ended up at Provocateur.

HB: Party animal!

ER: Not really, it was two weeks ago, and it'll take me six months to go back. You know, just trying to be cool.

Chef Eric Ripert Shares His Favorite Recipe From Mom (1)

Eric Ripert's book, 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table toWorking theLine, is available on See a recipe for his mom'sVietnamese Spring Rolls below:

Les Nems: Vietnamese Spring Rolls


Nems 1/2 lb. finely chopped lean pork 1/8 cup dried wood ear mushrooms 1/2 lb. crabmeat 1/4 cup cellophane noodles 2 eggs 1 large carrot 1 large onion 20 rice papers (11-inches in diameter) Lettuce leaves for serving

Dipping Sauce 1 tbs. chili sauce (Tuong Ot Toi) 1 tbs. sugar 1 tsp. lime juice 5.5 oz. fish sauce (Nước chấm) ½ carrot, grated


For the filling:

  • Soak the wood ear mushrooms and cellophane noodles in two different containers for 30 minutes.
  • Drain the crabmeat and pick through to remove any shells or cartilage. Carefully mix in pork.
  • Peel onion, chop finely and mix it with crab and pork.
  • Drain the mushrooms and chop finely. Drain the noodles and chop finely. Mix well (using hands) with the crab and pork filling.
  • Peel and finely grate the carrots, and stir in with the filling. Break two eggs and mix the filling thoroughly with a spatula.

For the rolls:

  • Fill the sink with hot water. Place a large plate next to the sink. Take a rice paper and dip into the water for a few seconds to soften the paper. Delicately remove from the water, and place on the plate.
  • Put a tablespoon of filling in a tube-like shape on the bottom third of the rice paper. Fold the bottom edge of the paper over the filling. Fold the opposing sides inward toward the center, and finish rolling from bottom to top. Put the nems in a deep dish (not on aluminum foil, as it will cling to the rice paper).
  • The secret is not to roll the nems too tightly and not to use too much filling. The air will remain in the interior of the nems, which will make them crispier.

Cooking the nems:

  • Put peanut oil in a pan (about 1/3 inch of oil), and place the nems in the cold oil. Starting with cold oil is essential for perfect cooking.
  • Start cooking on high heat; when nems begin to brown, turn them. Turn down the heat, and continue cooking over medium heat. When the spring rolls are crispy, remove from the oil and place them on a dish (you can line the plate with paper towel to absorb the oil).
  • With a knife, cut each roll into 5 pieces.
  • Serve with fish sauce, lettuce, and some fresh mint on the side.
  • Spring rolls are eaten with the hands, each piece in a little envelope of lettuce and mint that is dipped into the chili sauce just before eating.

For the sauce:

  • In a bowl, mix the sugar and chili sauce. Then add the lime juice, grated carrot, and fish sauce. Mix all ingredients and serve in small individual bowls.
  • The taste of spice is very subjective. Add more chili sauce to taste.

Chef Eric Ripert Shares His Favorite Recipe From Mom (3)

Romy Oltuski

Romy Oltuski is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work appears in The New York Times, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, and The Cut.

Chef Eric Ripert Shares His Favorite Recipe From Mom (2024)


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