The return of City Harvest’s Annual Gala at Cipriani/NYC late last month brought together celebrities, influencers, and NYC’s high-profile individuals to honor Mr and Mrs Eric Ripert. Top chefs joined notable Hollywood stars including the evening’s Master of Ceremonies Benjamin Bratt, Chrissy Teigen, John Legend David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris and Richard Gere.
The Gala, which returned to an in-person event, serves as City Harvest’s most important fundraising event of the year, and this year’s was especially meaningful because of the uncertainty and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, when the Gala was last held it raised enough to provide over 14 million meals for New Yorkers in need.
City Harvest, the food-rescue nonprofit that helps to feed 1.5 million needy New Yorkers a year, recently moved its operation to a new, 150,000 square-foot facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The near-100,000-square-foot expansion couldn’t come at a better time. The organization has been an indispensable provider for 40 years — never more so than during the pandemic.
The Riperts are universally adored by so many. On March 14, 2020, Ripert and his wife, Sandra, dropped in at the City Harvest Mobile Market in the South Bronx to help distribute food. Ripert had closed his three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Bernardin the day before. The city was in lockdown. Fear and uncertainty filled the air.
“There were long lines. It was extremely cold,” the chef recalled. “But it felt really good to be active. We were being cautious with Covid, but in that moment I forgot about all our problems. It’s one of my greatest memories of helping City Harvest.”
City Harvest CEO Jilly Stephens was there, too, and remembers it well. “Eric and Sandra saw for themselves in a tangible sense how many more people were online than in the month before.” City Harvest delivers 111 million pounds of food annually to food pantries, soup kitchens and community partners in the five boroughs
The Riperts and a who’s who of culinary stars have been prime movers in the nonprofit’s efforts for 25 years. Le Bernardin has donated nearly 600,000 pounds of food since 1997 and helped distribute over 17 million free meals. The Riperts, using donations from Le Bernardin itself and from fundraising efforts, helped to contribute more than 20 million pounds since 1997.
Ripert, a City Harvest board member since 2002 and a vice-chair since 2013, is also chairman emeritus of the nonprofit’s Food Council, a group of 80 local chefs who donate food, help raise funds.
City Harvest’s Food Council has more than 70 members. The current chair of the Food Council is Geoffrey Zakarian who is joined by top toques including Dana Cowin, Michael Lomonaco, Danny Meyer, Drew Nieporent, Tom Colicchio, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson, Jean George Vongerichten and Gail Simmons.
Starting in May of 2020, when Ripert wondered whether he’d ever be able to reopen Le Bernardin to the public, his kitchen cooked 400 meals a day, using food collected by City Harvest. Their partner, Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen, delivered meals to shelters.
Following the indoor-dining resumption in February 2021, Le Bernardin earmarked $5 from each customer’s dinner check for City Harvest. Since lunch service resumed last year, the donation continues on the three-course, $90 bar/lounge lunch menu.
Sandra Ripert is the gala’s co-chair. Throughout the year she visits City Harvest’s facilities, helps pack food for mobile markets and brings awareness to the organization by hosting events. Stephens said, “They are by our side at every turn. Their contribution is almost inestimable.”
City Harvest is New York City‘s largest food rescue organization. The organization collects food that would otherwise go to waste from restaurants, bakeries and cafes. City Harvest was founded in 1982, and is the world’s first food rescue organization. The organization collects excess food from restaurants, grocers, bakeries, Greenmarkets, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers, and farms. The food is then delivered without charge to community food programs throughout New York City. Food delivered by City Harvest is received by about 1 million residents.