A California native, and a renowned perfectionist, Chef Thomas Keller is apprentice-trained, and one of America’s most well-known and successful chefs— the only American-born one with two restaurants that have received three stars from the Michelin Guide.
Born to a marine drill sergeant and a restaurant manager, Keller is said to have entered the profession as a dishwasher at the restaurant where his mother worked, the Palm Beach Yacht Club. After several apprenticeships he left the States in 1983 for France where he worked in various Michelin-rated restaurants including Guy Savoy. He opened Rakel, his first restaurant, in New York in 1986. It received acclaim, but closed in 1990— widely seen as a victim of its high style and the market crash.
After several years as executive chef at Checkers Hotel in Los Angeles, Keller opened the The French Laundry in Yountville, in 1994. It quickly became a destination restaurant known for innovative cuisine. The New York Times’ then restaurant critic, Ruth Reichl, named it “the most exciting place to eat in the United States.” Keller opened a bistro, Bouchon, in Yountville in 1998, Bouchon Bakery in 2003, and Per Se in 2004.
Keller is known for unique tasting menus wherein no ingredient is repeated. Both The French Laundry and Per Se have been awarded three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide. Keller opened other branches of Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery in New York and Las Vegas, and Ad Hoc, a casual restaurant in Yountville that serves comfort food. Keller has published several cookbooks including one on sous vide, The French Laundry, and recently, for Ad Hoc.
Restaurants: The French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc
Signature Dish: Oysters and Pearls
DID YOU KNOW? Thomas Keller was a consultant for Pixar’s animated film Ratatouille. He also taught actor, Adam Sandler, how to make a ‘perfect BLT’ as part of his training for the film, Spanglish.