Thomas Keller has released The French Laundry, Per Se, his first book in a decade. The major project, which was started back in 2018, offers a timeless account of his restaurants’ philosophy and culture that resonates today as much as ever.
Chef Keller takes the broader view of life and cooking. Perhaps he has the body of work behind him that allows him to do that. Perhaps it’s his ability to view the big picture that has enabled him to achieve his position at the top of the world’s culinary tree. Like most successful chefs, he has the ability to wear other hats: philosopher, speaker, entrepreneur. But above all, he remains at heart, a cook. His book is a compendium of all these roles and experiences that will sit as comfortably on a coffee table as it will be sauce-spattered in any kitchen.
The French Laundry, Per Se is not a cookbook as such, but rather a presentation of two three-Michelin-star restaurants’ culture and philosophy. That's fine for the seasoned professional chefs, you might think. But there’s more to it. Like an onion, there are layers, and while many of the recipes depict unattainable complexities for the average home cook, it’s not about the final execution, but rather the process. Something Keller shares willingly. There’s something for everyone.
“What’s important about this cookbook is the philosophy and culture, some of the underlying recipes,” says Keller. “Not just the compositions as you see them, but how to brine something, how to cure something, how to make an aioli, all these different techniques are fundamental. Corey Chow’s [Chef de Cuisine at Per Se] Super Stock is just beautiful and you can really use that. I’m not suggesting you take the recipe and do the whole chicken, because that’s a really complicated process, but if you drill down in there you’ll find some wonderful recipes and techniques that will really change the way you cook at home.”
We’ve all been cooking more at home in the last year and some of us have developed skills we didn’t know we had. No matter how much you know though, or how much you think you know, there is always more to learn. Indeed, there is nothing in the way we cook that is not based on the knowledge of the generations that have gone before us.
“I always tell people if you can roast a chicken, grill a piece of meat or sauté a piece of fish, that’s all you really need to know how to do. Just cook a few vegetables. Home cooking should be simple cooking, cooking from the heart, from the market.”