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Key Idea: Be True to Yourself

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. More...

Key Question:


Refuse to compromise and you'll discover new ways to do things.  It  is very difficult because we think that if we try to be like others we will gain more acceptance.

We know that Thomas Keller is willing to stay true to himself.  First, he lost a partner when he wouldn't compromise on the menu at Rakel. Second, when he saw The French Laundry and decided this would be the location of what he hoped would be his first successful venture, he would not relent. He had no money but he was so strongly attracted to the building in Yountville that he worked like a dog to put together the financing.

We all know that accomplished people do whatever it takes for them to achieve their goals. The runner runs the extra miles, the parent sacrifices for the children, the scientist works non-stop in the laboratory to prove out a theory, the rancher stays up all night to nurse a sick animal.

Something deep inside told Thomas Keller that this location was right for him. He said, it feels like home and it feels like it could be any where in the world. It is a magical place and he knew he would not be happy if he could not open a restaurant in this location.

Think about it

What should you be doing that you are not now doing? If you are true to yourself right now would your life be different?

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."

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French Laundry

Thomas Keller, Owner

6640 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Visit our web site:

Office: 707.944.2380

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Be True to Yourself

HATTIE: So what did you do?

THOMAS: You just keep doing what you're doing.
Eventually my partner, you know, forced me
to accept the fact that I couldn't, you know--
either I changed what I wanted to do foodwise
and thus change the prices, or we'd have to find
somebody to take over the restaurant.

So I said, "Well, you know my purpose in my career is to do the kind of food that I believe in, and I'll give up the restaurant and we'll bring somebody else in and we can reformat the restaurant." And that's what happened. I left.

HATTIE: So what you're saying is that you're not changing.

THOMAS: I wasn't changing. No... I believed in what I was doing and I believed that I would find a place to be able to do it. I thought that if I would compromise my quality and my standards that it would be the end of me.

HATTIE: And then...

THOMAS: We shook hands and I left. I left. So I took a job in Los Angeles. And first time being in a corporate environment was disastrous for me.

HATTIE: Layers of bureaucracy.

THOMAS: Yeah. It was disastrous. It didn't afford me the ability to cook. As the chef, as the executive chef of a hotel, you were expected to do everything else but cook.

HATTIE: Oh. You had to manage staff...

THOMAS: Yes. I had staff meetings and budget meetings. I mean, I was in meetings four or five times a week. I found out that I was miserable in that environment. I was in a kitchen environment and not able to cook. I was not cooking.

I left the hotel and I started a small business called EVO, which was an olive oil company, with a partner. And we produced olive oil for a while. We still do; I still do. And that kind of kept me busy. It was fun, made a little bit of money at it. But what it allowed me to do was think about where I wanted to be in my next step, and I found The French Laundry.

I always kind of back into things, I guess is the way that I do it. I found the restaurant, I said, `This is what I want. Now how can I get it? How can I get it?' And that was the biggest challenge of my life. And I think if I knew then what I know now, I'd have probably thought, `That's ridiculous. I'll never be able to do that.'

HATTIE: In other words, it was too big of a dream.

THOMAS: Yeah, it was just too many things involved in buying a business. I had no idea.

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