Posted 19 September 2005 - 12:33 PM
The pages in question are, mostly, 276-279. What the book explains is that the opening of Per Se and the expansion of the Keller empire -- and remember, at the same time French Laundry lost its long-time chef-de-cuisine and Per Se burned down -- left French Laundry with a dearth of kitchen talent and a lot of institutional inertia that made it hard to fix the problems. As the account goes, since Psaltis's job was to fix the problems, he was understandably frustrated at not being given the tools to do so. This certainly seems possible. Similar stories are common -- more common than not -- at restaurants that spin off branches in faraway places.
The chapter is pretty detailed and includes direct quotes from Keller on all the salient points. Perhaps it is "self-serving" in the manner of most autobiographies, and perhaps Psaltis was not without sin (as is usually the case when two parties are involved in anything), but I've not heard of Keller disputing the quotes or the facts set forth by Psaltis. What Psaltis says also strikes me as fair comment -- it mostly comes across as negative not because it's particularly harsh (it is much less harsh, for example, than the average restaurant review published in the UK) but, rather, because it is naturally viewed relative to the long-standing media baseline of absolute unquestioning Keller-worship. There seems to be some innuendo here that something bad happened that Psaltis has not told about. I'm sure we'd all be interested to know what that is supposed to be. Doug is a friend and one of the most talented chefs I know, but if he was engaging in human sacrifice in the French Laundry kitchen and was fired for it I'll be the first to publicize it here. Innuendo, however, is another story, and tends to imply something far worse than reality.
The suggestion that Psaltis took the French Laundry job in order to write about it is risible. There should be little doubt that if Psaltis had fit in and loved it out there he could have settled into the chef-de-cuisine job and been happy for a long time at a restaurant that has often been called one of the world's best (though in my opinion it is overrated). In terms of timing, as far as I know by the time Psaltis went to French Laundry the book was sold and written. I'm pretty sure the French Laundry chapter was added during editorial revisions.