His Kellerness on Being (Like) the President, The Burger Concept and Benu


Thomas Keller was interviewed for NBC New York's "Feast Sitdown." It's a doozy of an interview (ok, mostly a snoozy), but here are some choice quotes for you Keller addicts. Read the rest here. Catch the man himself at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Classic April 8–11.

On chef Corey Lee's entrepreneurial spirit:
"Corey was determined to open his own restaurant; maybe he has more of an entrepreneurial spirit, maybe not. He’s always wanted to open his own restaurant and that’s what he did, he’s working on opening Benu in San Francisco [ed: which is going into the old Two space on Hawthorne Lane]. I advised Corey and Jonathan [Benno] identically. There was no difference in my advising or mentoring them or helping them. They had access to our CFO. They had access to our COO to develop business plans. They had access to our HR—all of the things that we have were available to them. And I am a partner in Corey’s restaurant. With Jonathan, I didn’t have an opportunity to be a partner in his restaurant because it’s Joachim restaurant. But yes, at the end of the day, in the same way that people advised me, you make the choice that you’re most comfortable with."

On The French Laundry's immortality:
The French Laundry on the other hand wasn't impacted at all and I say that with a little embarrassment. It is probably because people stopped traveling to France or Europe and they stayed home because they thought it was more economical to stay home than travel overseas … So it was very interesting to look at that process, every good business man did was they were supposed to-tighten their belts, learn how to do things more efficiently and save money and come out on the other end bigger and better, or at the very least to still be a player in the game.

On Tommy (can we call him that too?):
You know, Tommy [Colicchio] is a good friend of mine, as much as you can have friends in the industry since we’re always so busy. But I’ve known Tommy for a long time, he was my sous chef back a Rakel years ago, so we have quite a history together. But beyond just working together, we’ve become friends over the years. We’re like minded people, Daniel Boulud’s another one I consider a close friend.

On what he has in common with the president:
Even though from the very first day we opened Bouchon in Yountville, I said, ‘I’m not the chef at Bouchon. I’m the chef at the French Laundry. This is a restaurant I’m opening and Jeffrey Cerciello is the chef there.’ But you know how far that gets sometimes; it’s always about the one person. And you know as well as I do, when you’re a chef, you’re the chef at one restaurant. Now I have a hard time with the meaning of the word chef now and I’m trying to redefine that. We use the word modern chef and I’m trying to redefine that. I guess I'll always be a chef like a doctor is a doctor even if he's practicing or not, just like the President will always be the President whether he's in office or not. It's kind of uncomfortable for me, I haven’t really found my true comfortable place yet like I had the when I was in the kitchen.

On the possibility of a Keller's Refresher:
The time may have passed [to do a burger place], but who knows? There’s no place in Yountville that is available to me from restaurant use. If one became available, like Ad Hoc did, I would probably embrace it.

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