When Eric Ripert was growing up on the French Riviera, he found his love for food and found that food was love.
"I think my mother was giving back some love to her son, which was me, through the cooking that she was doing. She was trying to bring the family together," he says.
Ripert's mother always made elaborate French meals to help the family heal hurt emotions, he says.
"I had a very tense relationship with my stepfather, and she was making sure that we would sit for breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a very special experience," he explains.
Ripert eventually opened Le Bernardin in New York City, which has been awarded a prestigious Michelin star for 11 years, and has long been considered one of the world's great fish restaurants. He became curious about what he calls "temple food" and decided to visit some monasteries in South Korea to meet the chefs. He learned about fermentation and how to preserve vegetables — but the monks there also taught him that good food has a spirituality to it.
"They put love and compassion in the process. They pray for the food to be beneficial for the people who eat it. And then when they go to the kitchen, same thing, it's a mindful exercise, it's a meditation," he says. "It's a spiritual experience."
Ripert says when food is prepared with love, the people who eat it can feel that.
"Spiritual experience in cooking is very important," says Ripert. "If you have in your life something cooked by someone in your family who put love in the food — you feel something, something. There's a sensation, and I think a lot of people have the same experience — that can make the difference in between something that has been cooked by someone who loves to cook and loves to put good energy in that food to make you happy. ... It explains why you can feel the love in the food."
Ripert's book, "32 Yolks, From My Mother's Table to Working the Line," is now out in paperback.