Do no harm to others. Be true to yourself. To me, being a good human being, and the way to true inner happiness, is through altruistic actions, being mindful of others

ERIC RIPERT is recognized as one of the best chefs in the world. In 1995, at just 29 years old, he earned a four-star rating from The New York Times. Twenty years later and for the fifth consecutive time, Le Bernardin, where Eric is the chef and a co-owner, again earned the New York Times’ highest rating of four stars, becoming the only restaurant to maintain this superior status for such a marathon length of time. In 1998, the James Beard Foundation named him Top Chef in New York City and in 2003, Outstanding Chef of the Year. In 2009, Avec Eric, his first TV show, debuted and ran for two seasons, earning two Daytime Emmy Awards. It returned for a third season on the Cooking Channel in 2015. Eric has also hosted the show On the Table on YouTube, which debuted in July 2012, and he has appeared in media worldwide. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir 32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line, Avec Eric, and several other books.

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
My two standby books to gift are The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and A Plea for the Animals by Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. Easy to read, The Alchemist speaks of everyone having an ultimate goal in life, but most of us are too afraid to pursue it. The encouragement to fulfill your dreams is very inspirational! Reading A Plea for Animals raised many personal struggles for me. As a Buddhist, I’ve always been deeply conflicted between an appreciation for meat and fish as ingredients and taking responsibility for the death of another creature. Matthieu Ricard’s staggering facts and passionate argument challenged me emotionally and intellectually.

Most recently, I’ve been gifting my memoir 32 Yolks. It’s an honor for me to share my experience, and I hope that it serves as a source of lessons for young chefs.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
An orb of shungite stone. Its incredible protective and healing qualities—mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical—can be felt by even the most skeptical people. One benefit relevant for many of us today: it diffuses negative waves from electronics.

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
At about 15, I was kicked out of school for poor performance and told that I would need to find a vocation. I remember sitting next to my mother, across from the headmaster, trying to look sad, but internally I was delighted! From a very young age, I had a passion for eating that I learned in my mother’s kitchen. This “failure” meant I could attend culinary school at last! Vocational school led to training under some of the greatest chefs, which led to me becoming the chef that I am today, living my passion.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?
My billboard would say: “Do no harm to others. Be true to yourself.” To me,

being a good human being, and the way to true inner happiness, is through altruistic actions, being mindful of others. I believe that to find contentment and to be at peace with yourself, you must have a positive impact on anyone you interact with each day. You also must not allow others’ negative energy to lessen or alter you; you should stay true to your beliefs.

I came across a quote by the Dalai Lama recently that deeply spoke to me and the way I wish to live my life: “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
In the early 1990s, I read the Dalai Lama’s Cent éléphants sur un brin d’herbe, which translates to “One Hundred Elephants on a Blade of Grass” and opens with the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Prize speech. I was a young man searching for guidance and spirituality. . . . It was a revelation for me and started me on my journey to Buddhism.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

In my pocket at almost all times, I carry with me a mini crystal Buddha statue or a stone with protective qualities.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Giving up diet sodas. I’ve switched to more teas—saffron, lotus—which give me the same energy but don’t have the negative health side effects.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, I spend about one hour meditating each morning. It’s taught me to make space for happiness and calm in my day. In stressful moments, I try to take distance from the situation, take time to reflect. Whatever the problem, I typically ask myself, “Am I able to make a difference right now?” If I don’t see a clear way to make a positive impact, I reflect further. I think that patience in problem-solving can often be underrated.

[Elaboration from Cathy Sheary on Eric’s team: “Eric practices different types of meditation [usually every morning], including Samatha when he needs to focus, and Vipassana, which is a guided meditation and can be more religious, which he might use to contend with any anger. He can practice in most environments, but it’s usually in his meditation room. Sometimes it’s in his office, and sometimes when he’s walking.”]

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?

Five or six years ago, I decided that I was going to live my life in three parts— one-third for my business, one-third for my family, one-third for myself. The distinction and prioritization helps me to find balance and contentment in each area. It has become very easy to say no now. . . . If something does not add meaning or fun to one segment, then I don’t participate.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
There’s often a drive to open many restaurants very quickly, which some people correlate with success. The weak spot in any restaurant is consistency—you cannot be great one day, then be only okay the next. Attempting to manage multiple spaces and maintain the same caliber of service and food is nearly impossible. We could not run two Le Bernardins and have both be equally good. The more you divide your focus, the more each endeavor can suffer from your lack of attention.

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