THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2012 AN EVENING WITH THOMAS KELLER
A fascinating evening with Thomas Keller
at the Connaught Hotel
Many years ago I curated a so-called 'US Food Revolution' at Le Manoir: a festival celebrating the best of the USA: people thought I was crazy; everyone knew that the food in the US "is terrible". But I knew better: chefs such as Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Daniel Boulud and many others were creating a quiet revolution in American food. The revolution was to reconnect food with gastronomy, to reinvent gastronomy.
These chefs looked at the French model, and made it their own: gastronomy starts with seasonality, with the soil, with the maturity and nobility of the ingredients. Back in the 1970s, 20 years before the UK, the Americans effectively reinvented the local market in the US: farmers markets took off there long before they became popular here in Britain. They rediscovered their craft, they reconnected and worked with farmers and fisherman.
Thomas Keller was one of the very first to embrace this quiet revolution, and we were truly lucky to have an evening with him at the Connaught, where he talked about his views on food and gastronomy. One of his first jobs was in the Jura region of France - about 30km from my own home!. Thomas has learned his craft from many French chefs, who coloured his approach to food.
He created his first restaurant in California - the French Laundry, now one of the best and most famous restaurants in the USA. He understood from the beginning that the secret of success is to surround yourself with a great team: front of house, finance, kitchen (of course) and all the other unsung heroes of a successful operation.
Thomas said that his best asset when he started was ignorance! What he meant by that was that he has made all the mistakes it is possible to make - as I have! He has eaten a few humble pies on the way and learnt a great deal.
His success continues: the French Laundry is consistently voted among the best restaurants in the USA and in the world, and he also has the wonderful Per Se restaurant in New York, as well as Bouchon and Ad Hoc (click here for the Thomas Keller website).
This was a truly special evening: Thomas remains humble in the face of his huge success and recognises that you have to have an extraordinary team to share and own your vision.
The Connaught is, for me, one of the great hotels of the world. We received a magnificent welcome into truly stylish and elegant surroundings.
And for dinner, we had Thomas Keller's favourite dish… roast chicken! Perfect, of course!
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