32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

32 Yolks32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line by Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers

My general dislike of celebrity memoirs runs into my love for food memoirs: which wins?

In the case of Eric Ripert’s new book, the food memoir trumps the celebrity angle: I enjoyed this quite a bit. It probably helps that he had a solid coauthor, Veronica Chambers, crafting the account.

I’m really only familiar with Ripert from his appearances as a guest judge on Top Chef, and the book stops long before his first TV appearance, so virtually everything in it was new information to me. (And by virtually everything I mean I knew that he was French.)

The writing is smooth and his story compelling – I finished the book in two days because I kept wanting to know just a little bit more. It feels like you’re listening in as he’s telling stories from his childhood, and even when they’re difficult stories, you can’t help but want more.

His love of food shines through the pages. This book isn’t a food memoir as that term is so often used (as in, a memoir interspersed with recipes; there are no recipes in this book), but it’s a food memoir in that it traces the impact food has had on his life. It made me wish I could try some of the things he described, and it made me so grateful that I’ve never experienced anything of the sort of on-the-job training that elite chefs go through.

My only complaints with the book are that it still felt a little distant – maybe it was because of the coauthor writing his story, but it didn’t feel as personal as a truly great memoir does. In addition, it was very disappointing that the book ended just as he came to America – I am so curious what happened after that! Hopefully that’s just because it’s the setup for a second memoir to come in the future.

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Publisher’s Description:
In an industry where celebrity chefs are known as much for their salty talk and quick tempers as their food, Eric Ripert stands out. The winner of four James Beard Awards, co-owner and chef of a world-renowned restaurant, and recipient of countless Michelin stars, Ripert embodies elegance and culinary perfection. But before the accolades, before he even knew how to make a proper hollandaise sauce, Eric Ripert was a lonely young boy in the south of France whose life was falling apart.

Ripert’s parents divorced when he was six, separating him from the father he idolized and replacing him with a cold, bullying stepfather who insisted that Ripert be sent away to boarding school. A few years later, Ripert’s father died on a hiking trip. Through these tough times, the one thing that gave Ripert comfort was food. Told that boys had no place in the kitchen, Ripert would instead watch from the doorway as his mother rolled couscous by hand or his grandmother pressed out the buttery dough for the treat he loved above all others, tarte aux pommes. When an eccentric local chef took him under his wing, an eleven-year-old Ripert realized that food was more than just an escape: It was his calling. That passion would carry him through the drudgery of culinary school and into the high-pressure world of Paris’s most elite restaurants, where Ripert discovered that learning to cook was the easy part—surviving the line was the battle.

Taking us from Eric Ripert’s childhood in the south of France and the mountains of Andorra into the demanding kitchens of such legendary Parisian chefs as Joël Robuchon and Dominique Bouchet, until, at the age of twenty-four, Ripert made his way to the United States, 32 Yolks is the tender and richly told story of how one of our greatest living chefs found himself—and his home—in the kitchen.

Book Details

Title: 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line
Author: Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 4 Stars

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