Earlier this month, City Harvest Inc. auctioned a dinner for 12 cooked by Eric Ripert that brought the charity $80,000.
This week, Le Bernardin’s executive chef is luring foodies to a $1,000-a-person charity banquet cooked by star chefs at the Pierre Hotel to benefit the Tibet Fund, which aids exiles.
“Tibetan people are oppressed,” said Ripert, 46, a Buddhist who supports many Tibetan causes, in an interview at his restaurant. But they have “decided to fight in a peaceful way. I like that.”
For tomorrow’s Tibet Fund event, Ripert enlisted all-star chefs, each of whom will prepare a special menu for groups of 20 ticket buyers. The organization also will honor Richard Gere, a longtime supporter who helped the Tibet Fund buy its office space, and Donald and Shelley Rubin, the founders of Manhattan’s Rubin Museum of Art.
Ripert will make langoustine; “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio will serve slow-cooked farm egg and spring peas; April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin plans to serve poached cod. Other chefs participating include Annisa’s Anita Lo (sea scallop ceviche); Del Posto’s Mark Ladner (pasta and fagioli); Millesime’s Laurent Manrique (roasted duck breast); and Scott Conant of Scarpetta in Los Angeles (ramp and fava risotto).
Ripert began supporting the Tibet Fund about three years ago when he became a sponsor for its discussion series, Wisdom & Compassion for Challenging Times.
“Eric is a truly compassionate man, and he’s very, very down to earth,” Tibet Fund President Rinchen Dharlo said by phone. “More important, his help came at a time when the economy was down and our income shrank.”
Born in Antibes, France, and raised in Andorra, Ripert left home at age 15 to attend culinary school. At 17, he was cooking at the legendary La Tour d’Argent in Paris. After working as a sous-chef at Jean Louis at Washington’s Watergate Hotel, he came to New York in 1991 to work as a sous-chef for David Bouley before Le Bernardin recruited him. In 1997, he was regarded as one of the top chefs in the world. When the Michelin Guide made its debut in the U.S. in 2005, it gave Le Bernardin its highest rating of three stars, and repeated the honor in 2006 and 2007.
Ripert said he became interested in charity work one night when he saw homeless people on the street near Le Bernardin’s doors. He became a supporter of City Harvest, the New York charity that re-distributes about 23 million pounds of food each year.
He donated $1 for every lunch and dinner served at Le Bernardin in 2009 for a total of about $93,000.
With the economy in decline, “I wasn’t sure that we were not going to be laying off people,” said Ripert, a City Harvest board member. “We were able to write a check to City Harvest every month, and at the end of the year, I was very, very happy.”