My Library and Courses
Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Idea: Learn from Mistakes

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. More...

Key Question:


Learn from your past.  Thomas learned  from his first ventures that things are harder than they look. He learned that loving something doesn't mean you can make a profit at doing it and he learned that partners are difficult. Most of all, he learned that what you don't know will kill you and you better surround yourself with good people and good information.

We believe that working and learning are the same thing. If we're not learning something new we are destined to be stuck in the past while we watch competitors siphon away our customers.

Think about it

What lessons are you learning now? What are you doing with the new information?

Clip from: The French Laundry with Chef Thomas Keller

Yountville, Napa Valley, California: He took a little-known restaurant in a little town and turned it into one of the most famous places in the world.  Le Monde said (paraphrased), "Can it be possible that the best French restaurant is not  in France but ...California?" 

Visit The French Laundry and the man who made it come to life, Chef Thomas Keller.  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,  "...I salivate now as I think of the Truffle-pickled Hen Eggs with 'its creamy yellow' and Chopped Black Truffles.  ...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."

Go to all the Key Ideas and Videos for this episode...
Go to the homepage for this episode of the show...

French Laundry

Thomas Keller, Owner

6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Visit our web site:

Office: 707.944.2380

Business Classification:

Year Founded:

Learn from Mistakes

HATTIE: At what point did you say, `All right, now I can own my own business'?

THOMAS: When I was 21. It was one of those, again, you know, working for somebody else and then doing my own thing. I went in partnership with two other young men, and we opened a restaurant in south Florida.

HATTIE: Did it work?

THOMAS: It worked on certain levels. It didn't work on the financial level, which kind of after 18 months left us with empty pockets and broken dreams. But I think we all learned something from it. I certainly learned something from it. I became more focused after that and I said I understood that I needed to know much, much, much more.

HATTIE: So what did you do?

THOMAS: Six years later after leaving Florida and working in upstate New York, I worked in New York City, and then moved to Paris and worked and lived in Paris. I moved back to New York and became a partner with a gentleman who had a restaurant in New York. We opened a new restaurant in the city several years later. It was called Rakel, and it was a great restaurant. But then, bang, the stock market crashed.

HATTIE: Oh! So that was...

THOMAS: October 7th, 1987.

HATTIE: ...the summer it crashed, these were all your customers, and now they're broke.

THOMAS: Right. Now all of a sudden, we were blacklisted from all of the agencies that were there because the restaurant was considered too expensive, so they weren't allowed to go anymore. All the customers that we were drawing from Wall Street because we were relatively close to Wall Street -- I mean, there was a whole market that just fell apart.


Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!