Inside The Head Of…
Chef Thomas Keller
Does Thomas Keller need an introduction? The Michelin-starred chef behind legendary restaurants including The French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon Bistro led the team of Americans who won the biennial Bocuse d’Or in January—the first American victory in the culinary contest’s 30-year history. This year, Forty Five Ten opened its first store outside of Texas, in Napa Valley—a stone’s throw from Keller’s Yountville restaurants and gift shop, Finesse, The Store. We’re saying hello to their new neighbor.
Three qualities that got you where you are today?
Patience, Persistence, Curiosity.
If you weren’t a chef, you’d like to be…
An architect or a professional baseball player.
Has there ever been a diner you were intimidated to serve?
I certainly got an adrenaline rush when Julia Child and Jacques Pepin walked in the back door of The French Laundry kitchen.
Favorite midnight snack?
I don’t indulge.
Ingredient that doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Vinegar and/or citrus.
Last Google search?
Weather at Wimbledon.
Destination you’ve never visited but always wanted to?
I’d love to go on an architectural tour of Norway with Craig Dykers of Snøhetta to tour their latest projects.
When in Yountville, you must…
Visit The French Laundry garden. Pick up a map at the flagpole, take a self- guided tour, and on Sundays only during the summer months, end by shopping at the produce stand at Finesse, the Store.
Change you’d most like to see in your industry?
I’d like to see a redefinition of mentoring to include an acknowledgement of those who came before us and paved the way, as well as of the new generation of chefs.
Drink you order at a dive bar?
PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon)
Book you’d recommend to a budding chef and why?
Ma Gastronomie. It was through Chef Fernand Point’s words that I understood the higher purpose in being a chef: Excellence in cooking is not just about technique—it’s about nurturing people and providing sustenance.
Time you spend in the kitchen on a typical day?
When I’m in New York or Yountville, I try to be in the kitchen for the “First Ticket In” of evening service.
Accomplishment of which you’re most proud?
I have to say being honored with the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, winning Gold at Bocuse d’Or, and receiving the first three Michelin stars. Limiting myself to one would be like picking a favorite child.
Photo | Thomas Keller