By Liam Mayclem, the KCBS Foodie Chap
Thomas Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three star ratings by the Michelin Guide, having received a total of seven stars in the 2011 editions. He began his culinary career at a young age, working in the Palm Beach restaurant managed by his mother. He relocated to France in 1983, where he worked in several Michelin-starred houses including Guy Savoy and Taillevent. He opened his first restaurant, Rakel, in New York City in 1986, then moved westward to California to work as the Executive Chef at the Checkers Hotel in Los Angeles.
“Being a chef to me is about nurturing people whether you are nurturing through the food you are cooking them or whether you are nurturing your staff with the knowledge you are giving them.”
– Thomas Keller, Michelin-Starred Executive Chef & Restaurant Owner
In 1994, Keller took ownership of The French Laundry in Yountville, quickly garnering nationwide acclaim. His French bistro Bouchon debuted down the street in 1998, with Bouchon Bakery following five years later. He now has eight restaurants and two bakeries in the United States, including his home-style restaurant Ad Hoc also located in Yountville, Per Se and Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center in New York City, and outposts of Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery in Las Vegas. In November 2009, he opened Bouchon in Beverly Hills and introduced his newest concept Bar Bouchon in an adjacent space. Keller values genuine collaboration. He has successfully assembled an expert staff that shares his philosophy and vision, thus enabling him to concentrate on his many varied interests. He is the author of the award-winning cookbooks “The French Laundry” and “Bouchon,” as well as “Under Pressure,” on sous vide cooking. His most recent release is a book of family-style recipes titled “Ad Hoc at Home.” The book has received awards from both the IACP and the James Beard Foundation and appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 6 weeks.
He has consulted on the films Spanglish and Ratatouille (Pixar), the latter winning the 2007 “Best Animated Feature Film” category at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
I have had the pleasure of being in the kitchen with Chef Keller on a few occasions. To watch this brilliant chef work is to be alongside the likes of Mozart or Van Gogh except food is his art, the kitchen is his stage and the palette of possibilities is limitless. For our Foodie Chap chat Chef Keller and I stepped outside the kitchen and strolled around the French Laundry garden. It’s a beautiful two acre parcel that gives with the seasons and is brimming with surprises. It’s offerings end up on the plate of every lucky being who gets to dine in his famed three Michelin star French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California.
Please allow me to share this delicious pod cast from the French Laundry garden with you and as Chef often says, “It’s all about sharing!”
Oh and THANK YOU “GILT” for sharing and making it happen.
5 Tasty Questions with Chef Thomas Keller
1. What are your words to live by?
I have several words to live by, but I think one of the things that I always try to convey to the young chefs and service staff, is to come in everyday and try to do a little better than you did the day before. Just a little bit.
2. What might we be surprised to discover in your refrigerator?
You’d be surprised to discover that there is NOTHING in my refrigerator, except for maybe some water. I was looking for something sweet and I found a piece of a chocolate bar the other night that had been in there for God knows how long and I was really, really tempted to actually eat it.
3. If you were not a chef, what would you imagine you may have been?
Shortstop for the New York Giants would have been my goal in life had I been good enough to play shortstop for the New York Giants.
4. What’s your favorite activity or passion outside of the kitchen?
My favorite activity outside of the kitchen is really learning how to play golf and that is something that continues years and years after you begin to learn how to play golf and you never actually learn how to play golf. I know that most people who play golf know that.
5. Your last supper, you can have a few guests, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you eat?
Fernand Point, a great chef who’s been an inspiration to all of us, Harry Truman, who I think is one of the greatest U.S. Presidents, my mother and my father, and I think that would probably be it, and Laura. Of course we’d have to have Fernand’s wife and Mimi Truman as well. I think we’d eat very simply, because I think simple food is something that really gives us reflection and memories, but also encourages us to have conversation about those memories with each other. So I can only imagine what Fernand Point would think about sitting around the table eating a beautiful plateau of oysters, some clams and some shrimp, that fruit de mer, with a great, beautiful Chablis or Sancerre and then a roast chicken, which I know he [Fernand Point] loved. Of course Harry Truman coming from the part of the country that he came from really kind of appreciated the simplicity in a roasted chicken. Then finishing it out with a lemon sabayon tart would be really great, because I think lemon resonates with most people. That would be my last supper.
Liam: I’m gate crashing! Five tasty answers, Chef Keller, thank you so much.
Poulet Roti with Seared Heirloom Tomatoes and Chanterelle Mushrooms and a Chasseur Jus
1 each brined and tied chicken
2 tablespoons garlic oil
2 pinches chopped thyme
As needed salt and pepper
1. Mix the garlic oil and thyme together and pour over the chicken to marinate.
2. Place a medium sauté pan onto a burner, turn on high.
3. Add a small amount of canola oil, just to coat the bottom of the pan and wait until it begins to smoke.
4. Season the chicken all over, with salt and black pepper.
5. Place the chicken carefully into the pan, breast side up and leave let sear for 10 seconds or until you are sure the chicken is not going to stick.
6. While still in the pan, transfer the chicken in a convection oven set at 420° F for 24 minutes.
7. When the chicken comes out of the oven, put the rest of the thyme into the pan and baste over the chicken with its natural juices.
8. Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes on a drainage rack.
1. You many need to adjust cooking times depending on your oven.
2. If you have a steam function on your oven, apply 10% steam to the convection.
To see the recipe for the Seared Heirloom Tomatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Chasseur Jus, click here.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)