Le Bernardin Fish Soup


Famed chef and "Top Chef" judge Eric Ripert gives up the secret to the fish soup he serves at his renowned NYC restaurant, Le Bernardin.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 large heads garlic, cloves smashed and peeled, plus ½ clove garlic, peeled

  • 1 medium onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced

  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise

  • 1 small bay leaf

  • 2 segments from 1 star anise

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 2 teaspoons saffron threads

  • 1 piece orange peel, 1 ½-inch square

  • 5 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 cup best-quality tomato paste

  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into large dice

  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

  • ½ cup dry white wine

  • 5 cups Fumet for Le Bernardin Fish Soup Fumet for Le Bernardin Fish Soup

  • 9 pounds small, white, non-oily fish (such as red snapper or bass), cleaned, deboned, and heads removed, each fish cut across into 4 or 5 pieces (leaving about 6 pounds fish)

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

  • Freshly ground white pepper

  • 18 half-inch-thick slices French baguette

  • 1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, finely grated


  1. In a large, wide stockpot set over medium heat, add olive oil. Add smashed garlic, onion, celery, carrot, fennel, bay leaf, star anise, fennel seeds, saffron threads, orange peel, parsley sprigs, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes.

  2. Add wine, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until almost all the wine evaporates, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add fish fumet, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

  3. Add fish; simmer for 20 minutes more, pressing on the fish often with the back of a wooden spoon to break up the flesh. Continue to simmer until fish is in very small pieces, about 20 minutes more.

  4. Transfer the soup to a food mill fitted with a fine disk placed over a large bowl, and pass the soup through. Return the soup to the cleaned stockpot.

  5. Over high heat, bring the soup to a boil, whisking frequently to prevent the bottom from scalding. Season with cayenne pepper, salt, and white pepper to taste.

  6. Toast baguette slices, and rub each one with the garlic clove. Distribute the soup evenly among six bowls. Place a baguette slice in each bowl of soup; the bread should float directly in the soup. Sprinkle the baguette and soup generously with cheese, and serve.

Cook's Notes

Although the soup is not complicated, its success depends on a high-quality Fish Fumet, or stock, which will need to be made first. You can do steps one through four up to two hours ahead, and store in the refrigerator.

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