Thomas Keller currently holds seven Michelin stars, making him the most decorated chef in the United States. His world-renowned Bay Area restaurant, The French Laundry, has held three Michelin stars since 2007, while its New York counterpart, Per Se, has held a further three stars since 2005. This also makes Keller the only US chef to own two three-star restaurants at the same time. His final star is courtesy of French-style bistro, Bouchon, located just along the street from The French Laundry.
Known for classical, meticulous French cooking with a lighthearted American twist, Thomas Keller has cuisine in his blood. Born in 1955 to a restaurateur mother, the young Keller began by helping out in the kitchen when the cook was sick, going on to take holiday jobs in the kitchens of the Palm Beach Yacht club near his family home, and later in Rhode Island, where French-born master chef Roland Henin discovered him. Henin became Keller’s mentor, teaching him the fundamentals of French cooking, which remain a vital part of his process to this day. His training was completed with apprenticeships at various Michelin-starred Parisian restaurants, including Taillevent, Le Pre Catalan and Guy Savoy.
Keller went on to develop a cooking style with French attention to detail and perfection of technique at its foundation, but with a modern, often humorous American flavour. His flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, located in California’s Napa Valley, was purchased from the former proprietors in 1994, and has been showcasing his unique style ever since. The restaurant’s signature salmon ice cream cone, a delicate salmon tartare in a miniature cone that was reportedly inspired by a trip to Baskin and Robbins, is perhaps the perfect example of Keller’s playful approach to French classicism.
The French seem pretty taken with Keller’s interpretation of their national cuisine, making him a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur - the French equivalent of a knighthood - in 2011. And there were plenty of awards closer to home, too. In fact, Keller was one of America’s most decorated chefs long before Michelin arrived on the scene. Before his first Michelin stars, he had already been named Best California Chef (1996) by the James Beard Foundation and America’s Best Chef (2001) in TIME Magazine, while The French Laundry held five stars in the Mobil Travel Guide from 1999-2004, was voted Restaurant Experts’ Favorite Restaurant in 2000 by Food and Wine Magazine, and made numerous appearances in Restaurant Magazine’s list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, topping the bill twice, in 2003 and 2004.