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Last Update: Friday December 15, 2017

The French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller, an American Dream

From failure to the best in the world


Yountville, California: We spent a day at the French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller to try to learn his secrets. We think we distilled a few of them here for you, but like any true artist, there is still mystery around a man who is so respected by employees, customers, and chefs.  The reservationist told us, "Food is transformed when it goes through Chef Keller's hands." 

Located in the world famous Napa Valley, this is the place from which Chef Keller gained great fame. He now also owns Per Se in New York City, and Bouchon in Yountville and in Las Vegas.  To accomplish this growth, he has recruited, hired and trained some of the best chefs and service people in the country.

Writer Irvine Welsh had this to say about dining at The French Laundry:  "...we received 19 courses and 15 different types of accompanying wine... From the opening glasses of Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne and our crisp and tasty cornets of marinated Atlantic Salmon with Red Onion Crème Fraîche to the 'Mignardises' washed down with Barbeito Sercial Madeira 1910 Vintage Port, some four hours later, this was a gastronomic assault course. I have neither the time nor the space to go into what we received in between all this, so I'll just highlight some personal favourites. The Cauliflower 'Panna Cotta' with Point Reyes Oyster Glaze and Iranian Osetra Caviar was a magnificent canapé.

...my taste buds went into overdrive with the Salad of Marinated Jacobsen's Farm Figs with Caramelised Fennel Bulb, Roasted Garden Peppers, Shaved Fennel and Fennel Bulb Vinaigrette, and gastronomic orgasm was achieved with the Sweet Butter Poached Maine Lobster with first-of-season Chestnuts, Granny Smith's Apples and a Hydromel Sauce.

... the waiters just keep coming with more dishes, unfailingly polite and informative as ever.

...obviously, the title of 'best restaurant in the world' is subjective to the point of lunacy. Having said that, I doubt it would be possible for The French Laundry to be equaled.

...Thomas Keller is a true giant among chefs, coming over as a genuinely inspirational figure, and to see him in action in his kitchen is pure joy."

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Make your dreams a reality.  It takes tenacity and courage.  More on The American Dream.

Make A Small Amount

3:10 | Play Now   Thomas Keller believes that small is beautiful. All of his restaurants and portions are small.  Customers seem to love a few bites of one thing and are happy to move on to the next tiny course.

Learn from Mistakes

1:43 | Play Now   Thomas Keller's story is as much about failure as it is about success. He tells about falling in love with cooking as a young person and about making the grand leap to owning his own restaurant.  These perfect chocolates are the result of plenty of practice.

Be True to Yourself

2:33 | Play Now   Thomas Keller teaches us that sticking to your core beliefs may force you to leave a comfortable situation.  This is a table at the Yountville restaurant. 

Keep Dreaming

2:06 | Play Now   Dreams fire our imaginations but a dream without action goes cold. Thomas was broke when he saw the location he now owns and by taking action he kept the dream alive.

Put All Of Your Skin In The Game

1:31 | Play Now   We mean put all of your money and all of your heart into your idea because you set the tone for future investors. No one will invest in your idea if you have not already done so. Next you have to use the cash to provide the tools needed to achieve perfection.

Stay Charming

1:46 | Play Now   Thomas Keller knows how to paint a picture and endear himself to people.  These are the skills he needed before he was able to show off in his own kitchen.

Take Dozens of Investors

2:07 | Play Now   It took the SBA plus 48 investors along with every penny Chef Keller had to make this perfect little dish. 

Win Awards

2:02 | Play Now   Your struggle to reach perfection can land you in the world's most elite group.  When customers walk from the parking lot of The French Laundry into the restaurant, they see this plaque.  It is a signal that they are entering hallowed ground.

Do What You Want to Do

1:30 | Play Now   Host Hattie Bryant says that Thomas Keller's guiding philosophy would be laughed at by Wall Street.

Hire a Maitre D'

1:39 | Play Now   Every business needs to have someone who is responsible for customer happiness.

Hire People You Like

2:11 | Play Now   You own it and you should like all of the people who are working with you.

Buy from the Best

2:35 | Play Now   When you need a hog head you will want the best.