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Key Idea: Win Awards

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.  More...

Key Question:


Win recognition from your industry.  Thomas Keller has done this. The restaurant business is full of amateur and professional critics. From the local newspaper to the international publications, there are more words written about food than there are grains in a box of Kosher salt.

At we read about Chef Keller's New York City restaurant called, Per Se, which opened in 2004. One amateur critic wrote, "Truly Exceptional! Even though it's very difficult to make a reservation, it's worth it! Everything is simply exceptional from the food, service and atmosphere. I hope I'm lucky enough to get another reservation. "

Q: Should you enter contests or seek out recognition or invite customers to critique you?

A: Of course! It is often the best-priced publicity a small business can invest in. While you probably can't buy a full page ad in your local newspaper, if you won a national or international award, the chances are excellent that the story would end up attracting new customers.

The French Laundry was invited to be a member of a very elite group called Relais & Chateaux. At its official web site we learned that, "Since 1954, fine hospitality has been the hallmark of the members of Relais & Châteaux. Under their Relais Gourmands label you will find the most celebrated names in the gastronomic world today." This is a group that one must be invited to join. There is not application for membership. The current members eat around the world and recommend the places they feel meet the standards of Relais & Chateaux.

In addition Keller and his restaurants just keep winning awards:
2012   Culinary Hall of Fame Induction
2012   14th in the Elite Traveler World's Top Restaurants Guide
2005-1999, Five-Star Award, Mobil Travel Guide
2004-2003, "Best Restaurant in the World," Restaurant Magazine
2003, "Outstanding Service Award," James Beard Foundation
2003-1998, Voted #1 - Top Food, Zagat Guide to the Bay Area
2002 Awarded the top honor of World Master of Culinary Arts 2001, a 1st annual award given by Wedgewood
2001, "America's Best Chef," Time Magazine
2001, Outstanding Wine Service Award, James Beard Foundation
2000, "Favorite Restaurant in the U.S.," Food & Wine Restaurant Experts' Poll
2000, Inducted into "Who's Who in Food & Beverage," James Beard Foundation
1998  Relais & Chateaux, Grand Chef (opens another window at their site)

Think about it

How would your customers, your employees and your vendors react if you were recognized as an industry leader? Do you think going after that recognition is worth the effort it would take to get it?

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

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Office: 707.944.2380

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Win Awards

HATTIE: (Voiceover)Thomas Keller was named by the James Beard Foundation America's greatest chef. Brass plaques alert guests that they are entering hallowed ground.

THOMAS: There are less than 10 members of this association in America, and two of them sponsored The French Laundry to become a member.

HATTIE: Oh. Have they been to eat here and they...

THOMAS: They've been to eat here, and several of the members from around the world have been here to eat. So at their last congress in Paris, which was back in November last year, there was a outpouring of recommendation by several people, not only our sponsors which were here in America, but several people from around the world. There was a gentleman there from South Africa, a gentleman from Switzerland, a woman who owns a restaurant in Florence, who are all members of this association who said, `Yes, yes, yes, yes, The French Laundry should part of our association.'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Customers rave. Unidentified Man: He keeps this level of excitement high.

HATTIE: He keeps it going. . .for nine courses.

Unidentified Woman: That's right ...

Man: Yeah, for nine courses. I don't know if we're going to survive this. We're used to just three courses.

HATTIE: What are you getting?

Woman: I don't know yet.

MISTY JOHNSON (Restaurant Reservationist): I have people calling me from Europe...

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Employees rave. This is reservationist Misty Johnson.

MISTY: They want to eat at The French Laundry because the food it wonderful, it is excellent. And when it passes through Thomas Keller's hands, it's just not the same. It's just--it's transformed. It's just wonderful.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The press raves. `Wow! Wow! Wow! Thomas Keller's brilliant food attains another level of hedonism. Do the French ever get this lucky?'

Gourmet magazine has written about The French Laundry, and Gail Zweigenthal, a writer and editor-in-chief, talked to me about Thomas Keller.

GAIL ZWEIGENTHAL: (Voiceover) He is clearly passionate about what he does. He wants the people in his restaurant to love his food, and so there he is. There he is, making sure everything is wonderful.

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