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What Eric Ripert Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Nigel Parry

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked Le Bernardin co-owner and chef Eric Ripert, who just published the cookbook Seafood Simple, about the cold-preventing royal jelly he’s taken for decades, the black T-shirt he wears every day of his life, and the Peruvian chocolate he introduced to Anthony Bourdain.

$56 for 3

Pétanque is the French version of bocce but with metal balls, and you throw it in the air more than roll it. It’s the national sport of Provence and the south of France — and my family is from the south of France. Actually, we are very competitive in pétanque, my son and myself. I built a court at our country house in Long Island, and we train a lot, and then we do tournaments. We take it very seriously. This year we won a tournament on Shelter Island, and I got a gigantic bottle of rosé. It’s a fun game, but I have to win. You’re supposed to trash talk. I have a set in my house and one in my car because you never know. I could be somewhere and suddenly someone wants to play pétanque.

[Editor’s note: Obut lists prices in euros, so the price shown is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.]

In the late ’50s, early ’60s, my grandfather had cancer. And at one point it was so bad the doctors said, “We don’t know what to do anymore.” But then one doctor said, “I have no scientific proof, but for centuries in Provence, we’ve given royal jelly to people who are very sick. You should try a high dose every day and see.” And he cured himself. I don’t know if the royal jelly had anything to do with him being cured or not, but I’ve been taking one capsule every morning for 30-something years since before I came to America, and I rarely get sick, even in New York. I don’t have colds, no flus, nothing.

I wear this every day of my life (unless I need to go somewhere elegant and I have to wear a suit, of course). But my uniform is jeans and a black T-shirt, every day of my life. I find the black color easy: If you sweat a little bit, it doesn’t show. If you stain it a little bit, it doesn’t show. I go to Uniqlo down the street from Le Bernardin or order 24 T-shirts online, and I wear them until they start to have holes. I like the way they feel. I like the neckline and that they’re not too long or short.

When I travel, I don’t like to check my luggage. It takes time, and they very often lose it. But still, sometimes I need a suit or to carry my chef jacket. The trifold lets you hang that so it doesn’t get as wrinkled, and then there are still lots of pockets for underwear, socks, shirts, and sweaters. I carry it on my shoulder, I put it up top, we land, I’m out.

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This jacket is very soft, light, and comfortable. But it’s also very safe. The buttons come undone when you pull them, and they’re round instead of flat, so you don’t have to unbutton each one. If I had regular buttons and some burning liquid or oil on me, my skin would burn. I can take this off very quickly. And the sleeves are long, so let’s suppose I’m whisking something and it’s hot — I can protect my hand. I also have 24 of them.

I walk every day from my house to Le Bernardin, and I go back from Le Bernardin to my house, through Central Park or on the streets, rain or shine — and I have this knapsack on me always. In the small front pocket, I put my keys, my headset, my glasses, some tissues, whatever. And the bigger one I put files in or have room if I buy something. I like that there’s no label whatsoever.

I have loved MAC chef’s knives for a long time. They’re made by a Japanese company in the U.S., and the blade is more European-style with the angle on both sides instead of just one. The blade is beautiful. They last forever. The weight is perfect. The shape is perfect for my hand, and they’re very easy to maintain, easy to sharpen. Every brand of knife has its own qualities, and for me, they are my knife of choice.

Thomas Keller is the one who made me discover those glasses many moons ago. I have pairs everywhere, probably five at a time (though I should order them 24 at a time). They’re so cheap, they lay totally flat. They’re also very light, so I don’t feel them on my ears and nose. And they’re practical: I put them in my pocket, I can put them in my bag. I can lose them, break them.

Because I work in a kitchen, my hair is greasy at the end of the day, every day — and therefore I need to wash my hair every day. But shampoo can be a bit abrasive. I used to put in a bit of gel to keep it moist, but that’s a bit heavy. At AKS, where I’ve had my hair cut since 1992 by the same lady, she told me, “Don’t use that. It’s not good for you. Use this serum.” So I tried it, and it made a huge difference. It’s very light, and my hair feels healthy.

I love dark chocolate. The guy who makes this one is based in Philadelphia, and he’s a real artisan, a real chocolatier. It’s silky, and it’s the right texture, not like pasty, with the right amount of bitterness. I like this chocolate so much that when Anthony Bourdain was alive, I told him about it, and we went to Peru where they produce the cacao for an episode of Parts Unknown on CNN. Every morning, I have two squares with my coffee.

I only have one cup of coffee a day, and it’s decaf — and I’m the only one in the house who drinks decaf. This makes just one cup at a time. It doesn’t take up too much space, and the water comes out very, very hot. I put in my cup, and 25 minutes later, it’s still warm. I have this ritual of taking, I guess, 25 minutes to drink my cup of coffee in the morning and eating my two squares of chocolate.

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What Eric Ripert Can’t Live Without