Chef, philanthropist, and Napa Valley local—get to know Thomas Keller
Who is Thomas Keller?
Thomas Keller was born in 1955 in San Diego County at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Keller’s culinary career kicked off while working at a restaurant his mother managed in Palm Beach, Florida and working summers at the Palm Beach Yacht Club, first as a dishwasher and then as a cook. Eventually, he was taken under the wing of Master Chef Roland Henin, who showed him the ropes and asked Keller to prepare meals for the staff at the Dunes Club, an elite Rhode Island beach club.
Keller spent time in France, learning the craft of French cuisine in Michelin-starred houses with esteemed chefs such as Guy Savoy. Working in Paris, he perfected the art of French cooking and has built his life around continuing their tradition of well-made food that brings people together. The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group is responsible for seven individual restaurants and bakeries across four cities.
Today, Keller remains a passionate restaurateur. He has published several cookbooks; The French Laundry Cookbook was released in 1999, making some of Keller’s most sought-after recipes available, followed by the Bouchon Cookbook in 2004. Keller is also the president of the biennial world chef competition Bocuse d’Or, and aspiring chefs can take his Master Class, where he shares his decades of wisdom in 36 online video lessons.
Thomas Keller’s Accolades
When you’re as skilled as Thomas Keller, it’s no wonder that he has become so highly decorated. As if one three-star rating from the Michelin Guide wasn’t enough, Thomas Keller holds two. His first three-star rating was given to Per Se in New York City in 2005. The next year, The French Laundry earned three stars. Bouchon has also been awarded one Michelin star, bringing Keller’s total to seven.
He is the first American-born chef to have two restaurants with three-star ratings. Additionally, Keller is the first American male chef to receive France’s highest civilian award, Chevalier to the French Legion of Honour. After The French Laundry took the culinary world by storm, Keller was awarded Best California Chef in 1996 and the Best Chef in America in 1997 by the James Beard Foundation.
Thomas Keller has earned 23 total awards throughout his career, from Bon Appetit Magazine’s Chef of the Year in 1998 to the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 2014. Thomas Keller has been inducted into the American Academy of Chefs Culinary Hall of Fame and the MenuMasters Hall of Fame.
Everything You Need to Know About Thomas Keller’s Restaurants
If you love the delicacy of French cuisine, Thomas Keller’s restaurants are perfect for you. Keller has restaurants across the country in Miami, New York City, Las Vegas, and here in Yountville. Keller’s first restaurant, Rakel, was established in New York City in 1986, and in 1994 Keller acquired The French Laundry in Yountville, California. The French Laundry has been wildly successful, serving the Napa Valley community for over twenty-five years. Bouchon is Keller’s most far-reaching establishment, with five Bouchon Bakery locations and two Bouchon Bistro locations.
Each of Keller’s restaurants, from the most casual to the most sophisticated, understands the importance of service. When you set foot in one of his restaurants, expect exemplary dishes paired with service that is equally impressive. Above all, Keller recognizes the ability of a restaurant and its food to bring comfort and happiness to diners. The motto “one guest at a time” guides Keller and his restaurants, ensuring that each guest is treated with care.
Thomas Keller Restaurants You’ll Love in Yountville
Napa Valley is known for its indulgent food and unbeatable wineries. Thomas Keller’s restaurants are in good company in Yountville.
The French Laundry is arguably Keller’s finest achievement. This restaurant found its home in a 1,600 square foot two-story cottage, bringing classic French cooking to Napa Valley. Walk through their iconic blue front door and prepare for an unforgettable meal. The menu changes daily, but their commitment to using the freshest local ingredients never wavers, and it is the combination of their dedication to fine dining and splendid service that has earned The French Laundry three stars from the Michelin Guide.
The French Laundry serves two tasting menus daily: The Chef’s Tasting Menu and Tasting of Vegetables. You may spot Meyer lemon and ricotta dumplings or Japanese shima aji sashimi on the menu, each prepared with French finesse. The restaurant works closely with local farmers to use only the best possible ingredients. On-site sommeliers will help you choose the perfect drink pairing for your meal from The French Laundry’s selection of domestic and international wines.
Since October 1998, Bouchon has crafted casual French café fare in Yountville. Bouchon Bistro is recognized for its elegant presentations of elevated bistro favorites and unyielding attention to detail. Their rotating menu features seasonal ingredients at their peak for optimal flavor, and their raw bar offers high-quality seafood all year-long.
Whether you’re dining for lunch or late at night, you’re destined for a delightful meal. Their sizable menu features a wide selection of French favorites, like gnocchi à la Parisienne, fried gnocchi with a fricassee of seasonal vegetables, and escargots de Bourgogne with Burgundy snails and parsley-garlic butter. Enjoy sturgeon caviar, crisp mixed greens salads, and roasted leg of lamb with mushrooms à la Grecque. Bouchon also serves brunch on the weekends, with menu selections such as steamed Maine bouchot mussels, sourdough waffles, and truffle croque madame.
Bouchon Bakery crafts French bread and pastries. Just like the boulangeries of France, Bouchon Bakery aims to create artisanal bread that blends traditional French baking techniques with modern food science. Their menu always includes handmade viennoiserie, pastries, cookies, and confections, and diners can always enjoy a carefully-crafted espresso or tea with their bakery selections. Partnering with Equator Coffee Roasters ensures that their coffee and tea options are top-tier.
Ad Hoc was created, first, as a place keeper. Literally translated, ad hoc means “for this purpose,” which signals its initial intention to operate temporarily while Chef Thomas Keller and his team worked to create a separate restaurant concept for the space. However, it was so loved by Napa Valley that the restaurant earned a permanent position on Yountville’s Washington Street.
Ad Hoc features a four-course menu that changes daily to highlight American classics—much like the ones Keller enjoyed throughout his childhood. All meals are served family-style, and this one-of-a-kind experience is designed to bring people closer together with the feeling of home. This homage to American cuisine does not come without Keller’s signature cooking style filled with French techniques. Addendum makes take-out orders gourmet and can be ordered online with ease. Carefully selected ingredients are utilized to create stunning comfort food, whether you decide to eat in-house or take it to-go. Because their menus shift each day, you can sign up for email updates on daily menus. On Sundays at Ad Hoc, enjoy a three-course brunch menu paired with one of their twists on longtime favorite cocktails.
Mexican cuisine comes to life at La Calenda. Restaurants in the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group all share an appreciation for the highest quality ingredients, knowing that a dish can only be as good as its ingredients. Chef de Cuisine Kaelin Ulrich Trilling was born in Oaxaca, the same place that the restaurant’s namesake celebratory parades are held. Traditional Mexican fare is served in a family-friendly environment that feels like home. La Calenda’s menu is vibrant and fresh, serving everything from tacos to tamales, chicken enmoladas to elote. Don’t forget to order a slice of tres leche for dessert. In partnership with the Mexican-American Vintners Association, La Calenda’s drink menu is filled with the products of Latino winemakers as well as offering a full bar with exquisite tequila, mezcal, beer, and wine selections from both domestic and Mexican wineries.
Feed it Forward
During the COVID-19 outbreak, Thomas Keller heard the call of food service workers in need. The Keller Restaurant Relief Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to redistributing donations to displaced restaurant workers. Every role is pertinent to a restaurant’s success, from smiling servers, bartenders who remember your order, and the management teams making ends meet behind the scenes.
Napa Valley is home to incredible chefs, stunning cuisine, and some of the best wineries on the planet. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can find a home in Napa Valley real estate or Sonoma Valley real estate, contact me today for more information.