Thomas Keller has been showing up all over my life lately, it seems – in my interviews with both Jami Curl and Marc Frankel, during my trip to NYC, and featured in a book I recently finished, “Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter”. For those who don’t know of Thomas Keller, he is a big time, world-renowned chef. He has won numerous James Beard awards, including Best Chef in America (like the Oscars for chefs). He is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide, receiving seven in 2011, primarily for his two restaurants – Per Se in New York and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. So to sum it up, he is a pretty incredible chef.
As such, it’s not surprising that he has inspired a ton of individuals in the culinary world, including Jami Curl of Saint Cupcake. She told me that she admired him for an “endless amount of reasons” but it was a quote in a recent interview that sums up her “love for the guy”:
“Success for me is not about fame and fortune. Fame is what other people give you, not something that you establish for yourself. What is fortune? Having more than you need? I don’t know, I’m comfortable with one restaurant. Success is about memories. Years ago a couple came into [the French Laundry]. They said, ‘Thomas, this reminds me of —‘ and they gave a very emotional description of an experience they had at a restaurant in France. And it’s about the memories we have – at the end of the day it’s our memories that we hold near and dear to us.”
This is one of the things I love so much about food – it really unites people and creates so many unforgettable memories.
Thomas Keller also owns Bouchon Bakery, which was inspired by the delicious patisseries he experienced while living in Paris. When my husband Brice asked me why he opened a bakery, I gave a roundabout answer about how he wanted to bring the great tastes of croissants, tarts and French macarons to Americans. Brice summed it up better with his response “so he did it because he just wanted to. Yes?” Well yes, I guess that sounds about right. Ok, I don’t know Thomas Keller but I do know he wasn’t formally trained as a pastry chef and it doesn’t seem like he was looking for more fame or restaurants, so it seems like he just really loves cooking and baking and wanted to share more of his culinary experience with the world. And that is a-ok with me! Bouchon Bakery now has two locations in New York, one in Yountville (where the French Laundry is) and one in Las Vegas.
I of course had Bouchon Bakery on our NYC Bakery Crawl list but we didn’t make it. Well, we did but to my surprise it was a sit-down restaurant, a nice sit-down restaurant. We had just finished a run and were expecting a bakery with some to-go options, instead what we saw was a beautiful restaurant overlooking Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. People were in their nice dresses, hair done, designer bags and there I was, standing in my smelly spandex running pants. I usually don’t mind looking gross and make my table neighbors tough it out, but we had already stuffed ourselves with giant cookies at Levain Bakery so I decided Bouchon Bakery was just going to have to wait. Don’t worry though, I’m going to Vegas in August and it’s not getting away this time!
If you don’t have Vegas, Napa or New York on your travel list any time soon, I again recommend Lovejoy Bakers. While talking with Marc Frankel of Lovejoy Bakers, I learned that their co-owner Dan Griffin was the head baker at Bouchon Bakery in Yountsville. That is super impressive in my opinion! No wonder Lovejoy Bakers is so good! Their newest sandwich, the B.E.L.T. featuring bacon, a fried egg, lettuce and tomato, was inspired by Dan’s time there.
Like Thomas Keller once said, “Food should be fun.” I for one think any combo like that sounds quite fun… and delicious. 🙂