32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

Title: 32 Yolks
Author: Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Genre: food memoir

The Premise

It’s a food memoir, it’s not that complicated. But I’ll let Goodreads summarize…

Before he earned three Michelin stars at Le Bernardin, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

The Good

  • Much of the book takes place in the South of France or Andorra, and I really enjoyed the descriptions of those settings and what it was like to live there.
  • The memories from his childhood in the kitchens of his mother and grandmothers were often very evocative and lovingly written. You get a good sense of the solace that these experiences provided Ripert during a very sad and difficult childhood.
  • This isn’t entirely my thing, but you do get a fair bit of interesting gossipy bits about his experiences working for Joël Robuchon, who as one would expect from such a talented and successful chef, was not the easiest person to work with.

The Bad

  • While there are certainly some compelling aspects to his story (the difficult childhood in particular), by the end of the book, I didn’t know what the point of telling his story was. The writing was flat. His story (privileged boy with a difficult home life loves food so he goes to culinary school and starts working in Parisian kitchens) is largely unremarkable. He’s not bringing anything to the table beyond “I’m a successful chef, here’s the the things I did to get me there.” That is likely enough for many readers, but it left me cold.
  • I only know Ripert from Top Chef, but I’ve always been fond of him (in no small part because he has a silver fox thing going on which really does it for me), so I came to the book fairly positive on him. And I’ve read enough food memoirs to know that a bit of arrogance and brashness often comes hand in hand with being a chef. But… there were more than a few times when I found myself actively disliking him. He often comes across as an entitled, spoiled, arrogant know-it-all. Those traits could make for a compelling character (Anthony Bourdain has made a cottage industry of being arrogant and and grating), but there was no sense of self-awareness or insight to go with them.

The Rating

2/5 stars. There are so many better food memoirs out there.

This book satisfies the “read a food memoir” task of the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

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