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Thomas Keller's influence

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Thank you so much for the time and effort you are giving these Q and A.

We are lucky enough to be long term customers of the French Laundry and have been the recipient of many 5 hour plus meals. I would imagine we have crossed paths many times and look forward to a trip to Chicago and the Tour de Force.

Being such an integral part of the French Laundry family for almost 5 years, Thomas must have been a major influence in your development as a chef.

What elements of Thomas' approach to cooking do you continue to embrace? What do you feel has been his greatest contribution to your evolution as a chef? In what ways have you evolved in a different direction and would you credit Adria et al for this divergence?

One difference that I note is derived from Keller's statement that he finds passion in the everyday routine of cooking and derives "deep gratification from the mundane." From your answers, your approach seems more cerebral and more dependent upon seeking new and different ways of manipulating ingredients. Is this a misreading of your approach?

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Thomas is THE influence in my development as a chef. My time spent with him was one of ultimate learning and growth.

It was more than cooking at TFL. It was Thomas washing pots, and doing dishes when the guys were is the shits, Thomas mopping the floor when something spilled, working like a madman 6-7 days a week (14 services), picking up a gum wrapper in the driveway, cleaning the blender and wrapping the cord when he was finished so it looked brand new, taking the time to show the chef de parties exactly how he wanted something done and why he wanted it that way, the respect he gave the cooks, the trust he had in their abilities, the way he looked at food..I mean looked at it ..like it was a diamond ring, the way he would do the "bottom of the barrel" so to speak jobs in the kitchen..peeling favas ..cutting brunoise the stuff the commis did, the way he got upset when something went wrong, how he talked to the guests when they came back to the kitchen , the way he thought about food, his generosity, all of this stuff.. plus the way he cooked.

That may be the the most glaring difference between him (at this stage in his career) and myself where I am now, the way he feels about repetoire, signature dishes and creating the "perfect dish". He owns many, and why wouldn't anyone want to show the world those perfect dishes? Furthermore, does one tire of eating a perfect dish? I can't count how many cornets , oyster and pearls, mac and cheese, coffee and donuts, agnolotti, and so on I have eaten. I totally respect his position, and maybe someday I will adopt it. But for right now I want to create constantly, I would rather not have signature dishes, only a signature style. Just like he did when he was at my career stage?....


Grant Achatz



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You have captured the spirit of Thomas "perfectly!" I wish every aspiring chef would understand what Thomas loves doing and what you obviously incorporate as well. No wonder that Thomas speaks of you with pride. You definitely deserve it.

I understand your need to create constantly, but you mention a signature style. I am trying to understand it in the context of your exposure to Thomas's influence as well as other cuisines. Let it be said that I am a fervent admirer of Gagnaire, had 2 incredible meals at Adria and one in 2001 that I was less impressed with, think Trama is underrated and so on and so on.

Given the above, what do you characterize as your signature style? I know it is so much more than the "molecular gastronomy" mode and I certainly don't want to put you into a box, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could better define "signature style."

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