The cooking itself is easy. Just look at the book. Roasting, braising, grilling, boiling, poaching – these are techniques that have been there for hundreds of years and they are the same ones we employ. The recipes haven’t been modified for different skill levels, so they capture the time and place they were written for the restaurants. If you’re a novice cook, you can learn how to pickle a vegetable, but there are also points of learning anybody can take from them – little techniques to enhance flavour, for example.
My favourite recipe in the book might be the tempura-fried soft shell crab. It’s one of Corey’s that’s inspired by sustainability – leftover carrot peelings are infused into a carrot oil – and by Chinese culture. I had my first experience with a soft shell crab when I was 12 at my uncle’s tavern in Maryland, where the soft shell crabs are famous. That’s fascinating to me: different generations, different backgrounds, but Corey and I both love soft shell crab.
Or it might be the steak and potatoes. It updates the Yabba Dabba Do dish we created at The French Laundry. At the time we were doing lots of dishes in 60-70g portions; I wanted to do something for sharing, so I did a cote de boeuf. I was inspired by The Flintstones; now David is building on that dish from his own experience of enjoying green goddess salad dressing at his dad’s favourite restaurant in the 70s. It harks back to something simple, but it captures the sense of evolution that makes our restaurants special.
I hope to break 80 sometime soon on the golf course. Professionally, though, I don’t think there’s anything else I want or desire. I’ve been blessed. Twenty or 30 years ago, I would never have contemplated getting to this point. I’m just really happy when I walk into my restaurant; I see younger generations of highly trained professionals, men and women from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and I’m proud they have this opportunity to work together, progress and improve, and give our guests a wonderful experience.
Buy The French Laundry, Per Se by Thomas Keller here. For more about the restaurants, visit ThomasKeller.com