Inside Anthony Bourdain’s Decades-Long Friendship With Eric Ripert

Anthony Bourdain first took the culinary world by storm back in 2000 with his book Kitchen Confidential. In addition to changing Bourdain’s life and career, that book connected him to the man who would become one of his closest friends — chef and co-owner of Michelin-starred restaurant Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert. Here’s a look inside their decades-long friendship.

Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert present their new Good & Evil dark chocolate bar as they attend Hey New York: Meet Anthony Bourdain + Eric Ripert at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle on December 2, 2016 in New York City
Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain | Owen Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Eric Ripert reached out to Anthony Bourdain after reading ‘Kitchen Confidential’

Ripert was born in Antibes, France and grew up in a cooking household. He began his formal training at the age of 15 and spent most of his career in fine dining restaurants in Europe, New York City, and Washington DC.

Ripert landed at Le Bernardin in 1991, and eventually became the restaurant’s executive chef. He has remained in that role ever since. And it was there where Ripert first came across Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential, the first book he ever read in English.

After reading about Bourdain’s experience in the rough kitchens of New York City, Ripert was delighted to discover that Bourdain had nothing but praise for Le Bernardin. And he was intrigued by Bourdain’s writing.

“I never order fish on Monday,” Bourdain famously wrote, “unless I’m eating at Le Bernardin — a four-star restaurant where I know they are buying their fish directly from the source.” 

Ripert recalled, per Mashed,” that he called Bourdain and told him, “I read your book, and I would love to know you.” Ripert says that was the first time they met, and they’ve been friends ever since.

The 2 chefs appeared on TV together often

Bourdain and Ripert’s friendship blossomed as they spent evenings away from their own restaurants and frequented “Anthony’s favorite subterranean dive bars” while listening to “obscure punk music on old jukeboxes.” 

The two chefs became so close — and respected each other so much — that they would go on to appear on TV together in numerous shows. The first time was back in 2002 when Ripert showed up in the 18th episode of Bourdain’s first show A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network.

Over the next 16 years, the duo traveled the world and dined together frequently. And Ripert would often show up on Bourdain’s CNN shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown, creating an on-screen culinary bromance. 

The two chefs also appeared in each other’s respective literary works. Bourdain showed up in Ripert’s memoir, while Bourdain included Ripert in his 2016 cookbook Appetites

Eric Ripert was traveling with Anthony Bourdain when he died

In June 2018, Bourdain and Ripert were shooting new episodes of Parts Unknown together in the Alsace region of France when Ripert found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room. Bourdain’s death was later ruled a suicide, which came as a shock to Ripert because his friend gave no indication he wanted to end his life.

“Anthony was my best friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many around the world on a level rarely seen,” Ripert wrote on social media after Bourdain’s death.

“He brought us all on some incredible journeys. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love and prayers are also with his family, friends, loved ones, and everyone that knew him.” 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Their free and confidential support is available 24/7 anywhere in the United States. 

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