|2012||Forbes Travel Guide||5 Stars|
|2012||Opinionated About||100 Score|
|2014||Michelin - SF||3 Stars|
|2016||The Worlds 50 best by SP||85 Ranking|
|Value for money|
If there’s one thing Thomas Keller taught us during his 10-day pop up in at Harrod’s London, it’s that The French Laundry brand is fundamentally not connected to time and place. Whether the restaurant be in Napa, New York, or the basement of a department store in London, the dishes are the same. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it means that Chef Keller is a good teacher, one who is able to teach his staff how to reproduce his dishes with enough accuracy that they can be prepared anywhere. But it also means that the dishes will never feel spontaneous and whimsical, and it’s difficult for them to convey chef Keller’s inspiration.
It was four years since my last visit to the French Laundry. Since then, Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee left and opened San Francisco’s Benu, with Timothy Hollingsworth taking his place. It’s an interesting situation being the chef de cuisine at a restaurant of this caliber where the executive chef no longer cooks. On the one hand it’s an incredible opportunity for a chef to propel his career, but unfortunately, the dishes still have to further the concepts and passions set forth by someone else: Thomas Keller.
Sometimes there’s synergy between an executive chef and a chef de cuisine, and at other times, a discontinuity. While I’ve never been lucky enough to eat dishes prepared by Thomas Keller, Chef Hollingsworth comes close to what I’d imagine chef Keller’s cooking to be: precise and composed. My last meal was delicious, but it felt sterile and soulless. This time around it was better: there were glimpses into chef Hollingsworth’s inspirations.
This was my first time at French Laundry for lunch service, and the dining room felt very different. Candle light was replaced by bright sunlight pouring in through the windows. The mood was more casual, the ambience lighter and more approachable. It felt less intense.
Our meal started with an iPad, holding an electronic copy of the restaurant’s wine list. Having simply heard that the restaurant handed iPads to diners to choose their wines I might have thought it was gimmicky, but it was actually really helpful. For the first time I could search through a wine menu and filter by the grapes I liked.
Our meal started with a glass of champagne and some small snacks.
Warm gougères - Piping hot puff pastries of cheese, with a generous helping of salt to really focus the flavor.
Salmon cornets – “Grab a cornet and eat it in two bites,” our waiter instructed us. There’s a reason these black sesame cones filled with salmon, dill, and red onion crème fraîche are always on the menu: they’re delicious.
Oysters and Pearls - A sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and a generous dollop of white sturgeon caviar. This is a very rich dish that is unbelievable every time. My friend the ulterior epicure likens the texture of the sabayon to “warm mayonaise.” While he has a point about the dish’s creaminess, for me the refreshing brininess of the caviar really helps cut through the fatty mouthfeel of the butter. The 3-bite portioning also helps, although I would have no problem eating three of these. This course remains one of my favorites of Thomas Keller.
Royal Ossetra Caviar, Compressed Summer Melon, Nasturtium and Black Pepper Crème Fraîche – This was a dish that was far prettier than it was tasty. In fact, it looked like the ingredients were chosen for their aesthetic value rather than their flavor: what did the mealy flavors of the flowers contribute to the dish? The melon helped bring out the minerality of the caviar, but everything else on the plate was mere decoration, or at least I didn’t get it.
Moulard Duck Foie Gras “En Terrine,” French Laundry Garden Strawberries, Cucumber, Young Coconut and Greek Basil – This was the first time I didn’t like one of The French Laundry or Per Se’s foie gras dishes. This was really disappointing. The golden, buttered brioche was warm, rich, and perfect — it was even replaced half-way through the course. But the liver itself was flavorless tasting like dense whipped cream. The basil seeds looked great on the plate, but they really didn’t add anything to this dish either. The two supplemental courses I was the most excited for: the ossetra caviar and the foie gras, were the most disappointing of the afternoon.
A little bit down from the previous two courses, we splurged and ordered a white burgundy, a 2006 Puligny-Montrachet 1re Cru Les Folatières. This was a younger sister of one of my favorite white burgundies, one that we ordered at El Bullí in 2010. Its flavor was of apricot and honey. This marked the point where our meal took a turn for the better.
Spanish Mackerel “En Escabèche,” Heirloom Tomatoes, Crispy Artichokes, Mizuna and Pine Nut Vinaigrette – A bowl of mackerel and colored vegetables. The strength of the mackerel helped it stand up to the fried artichokes. This was a dish about textures, every bite was a different combination of crunchy and smooth. I thought this course was brilliant.
Atlantic Cod “Confit à la Minute,” Summer Squash, Toybox Tomatoes, Parsley and Sweet Garlic Cream - A large filet of atlantic cod wrapped in squash with tomatoes and garlic cream. The cod itself was pretty flavorless, but the squash helped add a bit of vegetal flavor and texture. The tomatoes added a hint of acidity. This dish was about everything except the fish.
Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Fennel Bulb, Mission Fig, Marcona Almonds and Aged Balsamic Vinegar – Supple chunks of sweet lobster claw over sweet corn with fig. The real highlight of this dish was the crunch of the sweet corn with the richness of the salty butter. The lobster claws were a bonus. The fennel and marcona almonds didn’t add much to this dish, but the corn and lobster was so fantastic I really enjoyed this course.
Devil’s Gulch Ranch “Épaule de Lapin,” Black Eyed Peas, Arrowleaf Spinach, Glazed Bing Cherry and Black Truffle-Maple Jus - Making the transition from fish to meat came a small rabbit loin glazed in a black truffle and maple jus. This was a heartier dish served in a small portion which left us wanting more. This was a great course.
Smoked Liberty Farm Pekin Duck Breast, Royal Blenheim Apricot Purée, Romano Beans, Mustard Frills and Turnip “‘Mostarda” - Thin slices of thick-skinned duck with a fruity apricot purée to contrast against the duck’s fat. I would have liked that the skin be a little bit crispier to give some textural contrast, but the doneness was perfect — almost like a piece of lean tuna. Really liked this course.
Snake River Farms “Calotte de Bœuf Grillée,” Dill Pasta, Red Beets, Horseradish Mousse, Roasted Shallot and “Sauce Borscht” – A gorgeous, beet-read cut of grilled beef served over a “borscht” sauce. The acidity from the vinegar in the sauce really made this dish, cutting through the fatty mouthfeel of the beautifully marbleized meat. The beef was uniformly rare with a paper thin crispy surface from where it touched the grill that gave it just a hint of char. This was a great dish.
Before the cheese course and desserts, we stepped onto the patio and took a 45-minute break. The weather was absolutely perfect.
“Comté Reserve,” Eggplant, Sultana Raisins, Marcona Almonds, Frisée and Red Snapper Essence – For this composed cheese course, slices of 24-month aged comté were wedged between small eggplant and patches of frisée. I love comté; I really didn’t understand everything else on the plate. It just seemed arbitrary. Call me a purist, but I like comté by itself.
“Caramélia Chocolate “Crèmeux,” Gros Michel Banana, Georgia Peanuts, “Dentelle” and Salted Popcorn Ice Cream – A cylinder of sweet milk chocolate mousse contrasted against salty popcorn ice cream and caramel. This was a great dessert, really a balance of sweet and savory. The peanuts and crispy caramel layer added a textural contrast making this one of the few chocolate desserts I have enjoyed.
“Nectarine Melba,” Sicilian Pistachio “Pain de Gênes,” Andante Dairy Yogurt, “Biscotti,” and Raspberry Sorbet – A delicate pistachio cake crowned with slices of ripe nectarine. To the side was a biscotti crumble and a raspberry sorbet. This dessert was fruity, sweet, and full of color.
Coffee and Doughnuts - A Thomas Keller signature: cinnamon-sugared doughnut holes with a “cappuccino semi-freddo.” This dessert is always available at both Per Se and The French Laundry and with good reason: it’s one of the best. Simple balls of deep-fried dough coated in in cinnamon and sugar.
After coffee & doughnuts, we ordered some real coffee. Too bad there were no more doughnuts.
At the end of the meal we took a walk into the kitchen where Chef Hollingsworth and team were preparing for dinner service. The tone in the kitchen was remarkable: no yelling or shouting, everything was in order and the staff focused, calm, and collected. It felt like an operating room in its precision with Chef Hollingsworth its chief surgeon.
Would I go back? Absolutely. Chef Hollingsworth made the French Laundry worth re-visiting. But right now, it would be mostly for the experience, the service, and the way the restaurant allows diners to spend a relaxing meal with friends. The service is flawless, the wine list nonpareil, and the Napa valley gorgeous. The meal was good — better than my experiences under chef Corey Lee, but it still lacked that spark that I can only imagine existed when chef Keller was in the kitchen. As Chef Hollingsworth grows, he’ll be able to direct more of the restaurant’s culinary vision, hopefully pouring some of his own passion into the cuisine.
My last experience at the French Laundry was in August, 2011. But before I share my most recent meal under the current chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth, I wanted to share an older experience based on notes and photos from 2007 while the restaurant was still under Corey Lee. Stay tuned for the second report.
My journey at The French Laundry began with a trip through the garden. With an hour to spare before our reservation, we explored the autumn-colored late-season tomatoes practically falling off their vines in ripeness. I turned to my left and noticed, in shock, a farmer pruning the vines and discarding these perfect tomatoes. “We’re clearing the vines out today, want some tomatoes?” he asked. That may have been the fasted I’d ever ran looking for a bag; as I knew, The French Laundry grows and has access to some of the finest ingredients in the world.
During the first decade of the restaurant’s operation, Chef Thomas Keller melded California’s impeccable ingredient quality with innovative fine dining. The restaurant has won numerous awards and accolades, arguably making it the most famous restaurant in the country. We hoped to find the same inspiration that made the restaurant famous now that chef Keller is no longer in the kitchen. Our meal overall tasted very good, but it felt uninspired.
I loaded up three shopping bags with the freshest and sweetest tomatoes I’d ever seen. Onlookers thought I had a bit too much to drink, ravaging the tomato vines in a suit with a garbage bag. These three hefty bags of heirloom tomatoes made it to my car, back to my hotel, and on the plane with me to New York the following day. You should have seen the faces of TSA as bags of tomatoes passed through the X-Ray machines.
We brushed the dirt off our shoes and walked across the street to the restaurant.
Our table was a quiet one on the first floor in the corner of a hundred-year old house. The dining room was dimly lit and romantic with nothing but whispers and the clanking of utensils and glassware to be heard. We ordered a glass of champagne and settled in for our first course.
Gruyère gougères – Warm cheese puffs piped with Mornay sauce. These were generously salted and went nicely with a crisp glass of champagne.
Salmon cornets – Small cones of raw salmon tartar in a sesame tuile with sweet red onion crème fraîche. Our waiter asked us to pick a cone from the specially made holder; we ate it in our hand like a savory ice cream cone. These cones were outstanding, a balance of a sweet nutty tuile with fatty salmon and light vegetal crème fraîche.
Soupe de musquée de provence with kakai pumpkin seeds - A thick, creamy pumpkin soup with crunchy bits of pumpkin seeds. The flavor of the soup was earthy and rich. I liked the idea of a textural contrast, but the hard, shiny surface of the pumpkin seeds made for too stark of a contrast; the broth just slid off the sides without integrating.
Paired with a Schramsberg Vineyards, “J. Schram,” California, 1999
Oysters and Pearls – A sabayon of pearl tapioca with beau soleil oysters and white sturgeon caviar. This Thomas Keller classic is always on the menu at both Per Se and The French Laundry. This incredibly rich, buttery hollandaise-like sauce works great with the cold briny caviar and plump oysters. The remarkable thing about this dish is that it is always identical. After having this dish about a dozen times now between Per Se and The French Laundry, I don’t think I have ever noticed a difference. It is always a great way to begin a meal.
Sashimi of pacific kahala – Thin slices of Applewood smoked kahala served with blis maple syrup. Our waiter brought us a covered glass with thin cuts of kahala, and when the cover was lifted a small cloud of Applewood smoke was released. This was a dish where the puff of smoke smelled better than the fish tasted, or did not taste for that matter. The fish was relatively flavorless by itself. A dash of soy sauce may have helped to extract some of the flavors.
White truffle custard - Served in an egg shell with a ragoût of Perigord white truffle. This wasn’t a very fragrant dish despite the inclusion of white truffles, instead, the truffle added a mushroom-like earthiness to the custard that was addictive. After three bites the egg was hollow; we wanted more.
I generally don’t comment on wine pairings because I think they’re more about the experience of drinking wine with friends than enhancing the flavor of each course. However, this is one of the two best wine pairings I have ever had. The sweetness of the fruity, fortified wine really contrasted against the salty, earthiness of the truffles. The net effect was a stronger truffle flavor, as if eating this dish through a magnifying glass. The sommelier should win an award for this combination.
Paired with a Barbeito, Sercial, Madeira, Portugal 1978
Air-cured wagyu with 100-year-old balsamic vinegar - Thin, translucent slices of heavily marbleized wagyu beef garnished with arugula leaves, toasted pine nuts, and sweet, syrupy aged vinegar. This was the oldest vinegar I had ever tasted. I can only imagine the size of the original barrel. (I’ve heard rumors that 500L reduces to 1L in 75 years.) This was a composed meat course that I really enjoyed; the air drying of the fatty beef really helped to concentrate its flavor while reducing the fatty feeling in the mouth. That being said, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring sterility on the plate. The modernization of such a rustic dish somehow made it seem less appealing.
Paired with Naia, Verdejo, “Naiades,” Rueda, Spain, 2005
The French Laundry had held off on bread service due to our request for an extended tasting. But how can one say no to a buttery, shiny, caramel-colored bread such as this?
Hand-cut tagliatelle – Served with parmigiano reggiano and shaved burgundy white truffles. This was the highlight course of the night, and likely of all the meals I’ve had at Thomas Keller restaurants. This dish was straightforward and delicious: flour, egg, butter, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, white truffles, salt, and pepper. That’s it. The white truffles were unbelievably fragrant. This dish is proof that simple is sometimes better.
Paired with a Tor, Chardonnay, “Durell Vineyard,” Sonoma, 2004
Columbia river sturgeon confit à la minute – Served with potato rissolée, english cucumber, pickled pearl onions, sorrel, salmon roe, and dill crème fraîche. I love fish; it’s my favorite food. But a 6-bite chunk of white fish in the middle of an extended tasting, especially after a shaved white truffle course, is just boring. The best part of this dish was everything around the fish, the way the pickled onion interacted with the salmon roe and fruit. A good dish on its own, the river sturgeon was a let down after some of the other courses.
Paired with a Schloss Gobelsburg, “Renner,” Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria 2005
Sweet butter-poached Maine lobster mitts - Served over sautéed foie gras, hazelnuts, sunchoke purée, and a coffee-chocolate emulsion. This was another incredible dish, a surf and turf of lobster and foie gras. The liver was creamy, buttery, sweet while the lobster well-salted and also buttery. The coffee-chocolate emulsion gave off a slight bitterness which made the foie taste even sweeter (much in the same way that grapefruit can enhance foie gras’s sweetness as well). The ground roasted hazelnuts added a perfect textural contrast against the soft meats. This was a delicious, decadent course.
Paired with a Spencer Roloson, Viognier, “Noble Vineyard,” Knights Valley, 2005
The lobster and foie gras was also served with a selection of six different salts: sal gris, fleur de sel, black lava, himalayan, and local salts. It was fun to try the different salts, each with varying salinity and minerality. Our waiter left the salt tray on the table for us to enjoy with bread service.
Scottish red-legged partridge - Served with glazed chestnuts, caramelized splendor apples and spiced bread purée. I loved how the salty, crispy skin really brought out the flavor of the partridge. I really liked this course, but again, something about the course felt very sterile.
Paired with a Brewer Clifton, Pinot Noir, “Rio Vista,” Santa Rita Hills, 2005
Rib-eye of Elysian Fields farm lamb “plat de côte braisée” - Served with toasted pearl barley, niçoise olives, sweet peppers, and baby artichokes. This course was proportionally inconsistent with the other courses: 10-bites of meat in a tasting of this size induces palate fatigue. The meat itself was cooked very nicely with a uniform doneness throughout the interior and a lightly singed caramel skin. The meat was juicy and earthy, indicative of the cattle’s grass diet. This dish would have worked much better as part of an à la carte menu, but it weighed down the meal and was overshadowed by the tagliatelle and foie gras – lobster dishes.
Paired with Ridge, “Home Ranch,” Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Petit Verdot, Santa Cruz Mountains 2002
Tomme brûlée - Torched sheep’s milk cheese with a gratin of broccolini and sauce mornay. Both Per Se and French Laundry serve a cheese course but it’s always composed, usually paired with cooked or raw vegetables. This cheese from France’s Basque region was earthy and nutty. There was nothing particularly wrong with this course, but I’m a simple guy: I like my cheese, and a lot of it, by itself. Heck, I don’t even put it on bread.
Persian lime sorbet - A light citrus sorbet served with coconut granité. This refreshing course cleansed the palate, especially the oils from the warm cheese from the composed cheese course.
Coffee and Doughnuts - A Thomas Keller signature: cinnamon-sugared doughnuts with a “cappuccino semi-freddo.” Like oysters and pearls, the kitchens of Per Se and The French Laundry have the production of this dish down to a science. It is always consistent, always delicious. The cappuccino semi-freddo had a texture of a pot de crème with a fluffy mouse up top. It had the distinct taste of coffee without having much of the oxidized flavor coffee-flavored products sometimes have. Its sweetness was just right. This was delicious. The doughnuts were served hot.
Paired with a Domaine Fontanel, Rivesaltes Ambré, 1997
S’mores - Peanut butter parfait, caramel délice and sauce à la Guimauve flambée. The best part of this dessert was the salted peanut butter with its brittle-like sandiness. This dish was a bit of a stretch from a s’more, perhaps the connection is the “guimauve flambée” or burnt marshmallow.
Paired with a Kiralyudvar, Tokaji, “Cuvee Ilona,” Hungary, 2001
Mignardises - We finished the meal with a parade of sweets including marzipan, pumpkin pâtes de fruit, and small macarons.
Then came a vanilla bean pot de crème with a thin layer of sweet strawberry preserve at the bottom.
Last, a selection of chocolate truffles. These truffles were absolutely delicious, but at this point in the meal I was very full. I wish I could have put a few of them in a box to bring home.
I enjoyed the meal. There was nothing particularly wrong with it. In fact, it was technically flawless and well-executed. The ingredient quality was impeccable. The service was some of the best I’ve experienced in a restaurant. Given the lengths we’d travelled to eat here, our waiter made us comfortable and kept us laughing throughout the evening. The sommelier was incredible. But something still felt like something was missing.
I couldn’t put my finger on it until a few days after, at which point the problem with the meal became quite obvious and glaring: there wasn’t much character. While this works for dishes that never change, like oysters and pearls, the salmon cornets, and coffee and doughnuts, once the assembly line went off track everything else felt impersonal and disconnected: like a museum tour of what fine dining should be, disconnected from time and place.
Would I go back? Absolutely. But I’d be driven more by the romantic idea of eating in Napa in an old house with friends over a long dinner with great wine. The restaurant does one seating for lunch and one for dinner, so diners are almost never rushed. After the meal the courtyard is open to continue the conversation, lasting long into the night. The French Laundry, for me, is more about the experience than it is the food, and while that’s not something I look for in a restaurant, there are times when the experience is what’s important.
[Photo: Jill Cardy/Flickr]
Chef Thomas Keller's The French Laundry is a restaurant world institution, and nowhere is its impact clearer than in the achievements of the cooks who've worked its kitchen. There's the modernist powerhouse (Grant Achatz's Alinea), the new global top dog (René Redzepi's Noma), a bustling tapas restaurant (Ryan Poli's Tavernita), and much more. All of these restaurants exhibit a chef's particular vision but also the undeniable — and occasionally indefinable — elements of Keller. So, here are nine restaurants from nine notable alumni of The French Laundry.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Chef: Corey Lee
Before opening Benu in August of 2010, Corey Lee had spent ten years climbing the ranks at the Laundry. That's a pretty long time in such a transient industry, but Lee explains: "That's a testament to the kind of restaurant Thomas runs — his ability to retain staff, constantly challenge them, and offer opportunities." He adds, "That was the first time I worked for someone that recognized chefs as individuals and cared to see what they were good at and taught them how to run a restaurant."
And now Lee does just that, offering what many consider to be one of the most exciting tasting menus in San Francisco if not the entire country; he applies the wit, precision, and technique he picked up in Yountville to the traditional Chinese flavors he grew up with. After a recent meal at the restaurant, Momofuku's David Chang concluded, "Benu in sf best restaurant in America? If not now then damn soon."
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Chef: Ryan Poli
Ryan Poli spent two years at the French Laundry. While his cooking at Chicago's Tavernita hints more obviously at the chef's stints at places like Martín Berasategui and Sergi Arola in Spain, Poli insists that the experience with Keller was crucial: "In Napa I was exposed to products I had never heard of or cooked with, like ramps and crosnes. To 'salsify' was a foreign concept. Just living there and seeing the change in seasons made me more aware of local and seasonal foods."
It's hard to think that the "one of a kind" attention to detail Poli witnessed in Keller doesn't come in handy at Tavernita, a bustling, 300-seat space with a restaurant and pintxo bar.
Location: New York, NY
Chef: John Fraser
The restaurant Dovetail, on New York's Upper West Side, is where chef John Fraser cooks food that beautifully blends his California background and the French sensibilities he developed while working as chef de partie for Keller, as well as at some of the great kitchens of France, like L'Arpège and Taillevent. Given the Keller influence, it's no surprise that someone like Frank Bruni would choose to describe the place as "a witty kitchen that rarely winks."
Keller's emphasis on fostering talent and teaching his cooks how to run a restaurant has come in handy for Fraser, who describes the way he's grown Dovetail as steady and measured. Recently, though, he felt the time was right for a big move: he's remodeled the space, made some staff adjustments, and restructured the menu. It could earn the place its second Michelin star.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Chef: Grant Achatz
When he was just getting started, the celebrated modernist chef Grant Achatz didn't spend much time staging abroad. Instead, his most notable formative experiences took place over the four years he spent at the French Laundry in the 1990s. It's a period he talks about lovingly and reverently in his memoir "Life, On The Line," with highlights that include Keller urging Achatz to go check out what a then-obscure chef named Ferran Adrià was doing in Catalonia.
Now you can go to Alinea and experience one of the more stunning progressive menus in the world, with an emphasis on flavor and knock-you-out luxury that has more than a bit of Keller running through it.
Location: New York, NY
Chef: Jonathan Benno
After wrapping up at the CIA, Jonathan Benno had crucial experiences in Northern California, and — wait for it — Keller and the French Laundry were a significant part of that. Benno left to pursue various high profile gigs in the northeast, but returned to the Laundry as sous chef in 2003 to prepare for the opening of Keller's first New York restaurant, Per Se. He served as chef de cuisine there for six years and helped to quickly make the restaurant one of the best in the world.
Benno left Per Se at the start of 2010 to open Lincoln, an ambitious Italian restaurant in Lincoln Center Plaza. Says Benno: "To this day I still pick up the phone, I still ask him questions, I still run ideas past him. He's a friend and a mentor, and that relationship has gone on for more than twenty years."
Location: Washington, D.C.
Chef: Eric Ziebold
Chef Eric Ziebold came to the French Laundry in 1995, when few people knew what was going on there. He would become the restaurant's first sous chef, and then, chef de cuisine. He spent just over eight years there, and has said of the experience: "We were doing food that wasn’t as predominant throughout the country, in its clarity and intensity of flavors. It used to be ‘What else can you put on the plate?’ At French Laundry, it was ‘What can we take off the plate?’”
In 2004, Ziebold opened CityZen in the Mandarin Oriental Washington, D.C., which is one of two restaurants in the area with the AAA Five Diamond Award. And just one look at the menu, with its prime beef millefeuille and butter poached lobster, suggests that Keller's still a big part of the man's cooking.
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark Chef: René Redzepi
Rene Redzepi, who as you may known runs the #1 ranked restaurant in the world, recalls the time he was working at elBulli when fellow stageaire Grant Achatz showed him the French Laundry Cookbook: "It amazed me. Keller was embracing things that people made fun of — pop culture, the mac and cheese."
Instead of going to France, as he had originally planned, the young chef went to Yountville, where even he could learn some things about seasonality and, perhaps more importantly, to not look at your culture and its food as inferior. Another lesson: "Listen to your doubts, because if you have any, something must be wrong."
Location: Clifton, VA
Chef: Clayton Miller
Chef Clayton Miller was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef last year for the work he's done since opening Trummer's on Main in 2009. He worked at the Laundry for a year and a half as chef de partie of garde manger and meat, an experience that gave him the boost he needed to run his first big show: Norman Van Aken's expansion to Orlando.
He describes the cooking at Trummer's, which is located his hometown of Clifton, VA, as "creative American." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Location: Atlanta, GA
Chef: Richard Blais
Richard Blais has appeared on Top Chef numerous times and become a symbol forall the crazy shit you can do with machines in a kitchen. There is, however, no question that the guy has chops. In 1996 and 1997, he worked as a cook for Keller, and it's no surprise that the humor and cleverness of the food had the greatest impact: ''That wit, that spirit, all comes from Thomas."
He'll be opening a 100-seat American brasserie, The Spence, in the next month or so.