Le Bernardin, New York’s internationally acclaimed four star seafood restaurant, was born in Paris in 1972 by sibling duo Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze. Dedicated entirely to the cuisine of Gilbert Le Coze, the self-taught seafood wizard, it only served fish: Fresh, simple and prepared with respect. Le Bernardin was named after an order of monks who liked to eat and drink and a song about the monks that Gabriel Le Coze, Maguy’s and Gilbert’s father, kept singing to them.
The dual combination of Gilbert’s new cooking techniques—unheard of in the Haute Cuisine-obsessed salons of Paris’ better restaurants in the early seventies—with Maguy’s energy and drive in the dining room propelled Le Bernardin to one Michelin star in 1976. Considering that Le Bernardin was opened on a shoestring budget with Maguy’s and Gilbert’s parents helping out in the kitchen as the only employees on opening night, the Michelin accolades were an incredible accomplishment.
Continuing its success story, in 1980 the restaurant moved to a larger location garnering two coveted Michelin stars. This was the highest acclaim for a seafood-only restaurant since the powerful Michelin organization reserves the right to bestow three stars to restaurants with menus that also offer meat, game, poultry and fish to its diners. Le Bernardin insisted on only serving the best fish, carving out a niche in the competitive restaurant world of Paris and establishing an international reputation.
Inspired by the triumph of Le Bernardin in Paris and its many American clients, the Le Cozes sought to open a Le Bernardin in New York in 1986. In no time, Le Bernardin became a four star restaurant which is renown for setting standards in the cooking of seafood in America. After the unexpected death of her brother Gilbert in 1994, Maguy Le Coze began working closely with Chef Eric Ripert, a disciple and close friend of Gilbert, who took over the kitchen, and along with Le Coze continued to uphold Le Bernardin’s position as one of the world’s premier restaurants.
In September 2011, Le Coze and Ripert unveiled the next chapter in the restaurant’s history: a significant redesign from Bentel & Bentel. The new look features a lounge, a first for the restaurant, where a separate menu is available.
The restaurant holds several records in New York: it received its four star review from The New York Times only three months after opening and is the only New York four star restaurant that has maintained its status of excellence for more than 20 years. Reviews have come in 1986, 1989, 1995, 2005, and most recently in 2012, with the same verdict: four stars. Le Bernardin has received more James Beard Awards than any other restaurant in New York City. In 1998, Maguy Le Coze won the coveted James Beard Award for “Outstanding Restaurant” in America, and in May 2003 Eric Ripert was named “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2009, Le Bernardin was honored with the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Service,” and most recently, in 2012, it received the award for “Best Restaurant Design.” The Michelin Guide, which made its New York debut in 2005, honored Chef Ripert and Le Bernardin with its highest rating of three stars in 2005 and each year thereafter, and the restaurant ranks 19 on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The New York Zagat Guide has recognized Le Bernardin as top rated in the category of “Best Food” for the last eight consecutive years and the 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions awarded Le Bernardin a 29 food rating: the highest in New York City and the first restaurant to earn this since 1996. In the 2012 and 2013 Zagat Guide, Le Bernardin is named the most popular restaurant in the city. New York Magazine also rated Le Bernardin #1 in its annual ranking of the 101 best restaurants in New York City in 2006. In his year-end dining feature, Frank Bruni of The New York Times selected Le Bernardin as the “Best Meal of 2008.”
In 1999, Ripert and partner Maguy Le Coze expanded their business to form Ripert Consulting which so far has shaped restaurants in Florida, California and New York City. Ripert Consulting partnered with the Ritz Carlton to open restaurants in the Caribbean, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia.
To the delight of fans all over the world, 1998 saw the publication of Le Bernardin’s first cookbook, called Le Bernardin—Four Star Simplicity. Most recently, Eric Ripert published A Return to Cooking, in November 2002 and On the Line (2008) and Avec Eric (2010), which serves as a companion to his Emmy Award-winning PBS show of the same name. He is now the host of RESERVE CHANNEL’s “On the Table” on YouTube.