France’s Eric Ripert opens his New York kitchen to provide food for health care workers during Coronavirus crisis.

France’s Eric Ripert opens his New York kitchen to provide food for health care workers during Coronavirus crisis.

FRENCH chef Eric Ripert, owner of one of the world’s premier seafood restaurants, Le Bernardin, reopened one of his Manhattan kitchens in New York on Wednesday for the first time since March 13. Ripert and four of his 180 currently unemployed staff will prepare some 400 daily meals from Monday to Friday to feed the city’s medical workers.

Balanced menus including pasta bolognese with broccoli, meatloaf, couscous or tajine are set for delivery to those on the frontline who have relocated to the central neighbourhood’s hotels to reinforce hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

“For now, it’s important to help out the overall community, specifically doctors and nurses,” said Ripert. The goal, said the renowned chef, is to assist “people who take enormous risks, see horrible things during the day – when they return to their hotel, they can relax and eat something tasty.”

The 55-year-old Ripert’s project to deliver meals is in collaboration with the Jose Andres-founded World Central Kitchen aid organisation. The US government have given no hint of a date to ease off isolation measure, however, Ripert hopes he might be able to reopen his restaurant in September.
“It definitely won’t be the same Bernardin it was before the closure,” he laments.

Still, “Le Bernardin is a fancy restaurant with three Michelin stars – we will try to continue to be able to create this experience for our diners,” he said.
There will have to be more space between the tables and less capacity, staff will need to work wearing masks and gloves while using plenty of disinfectant, Ripert emphasised.

But the economic equation remains in question for the restaurant co-owner, who is used to seeing his establishment full for both lunch and dinner. Ripert expects he will need to reduce his staff from 180 pre-crisis down to 40 or 50 employees.
“We will do everything we can to work for our diners to have a quality time at Le Bernardin, and keep our employees able to work,” the chef said. Ripert doesn’t doubt his adopted home’s ability to bounce back. “We’re not going to do so overnight – to be as full of energy as we were takes time,” he said. “But New York will always be New York, and New York will return to the level it was,” said Ripert.

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Damon Mitchell

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As frontman of a rock band Damon used to court the British press, now he lives the quiet life in Spain and seeks to get to the heart of the community, scoring exclusive interviews with ex-pats about their successes and struggles during their new life in the sun.

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