homas Keller, one of the most recognized American chefs working today, is as renowned for his well-honed culinary skills as he is for his ability to establish a restaurant that's both relaxed yet exciting. Good food coupled with a memorable social and sensual experience has always been Thomas' focus. "Our food is serious," he says, "but we also want people to have a good time with it." If the reputations of his restaurants are any indication, he has succeeded.
A native of California, Thomas began his culinary career at a young age, working in the Palm Beach restaurant managed by his mother. After serving apprenticeships in Rhode Island, Florida, and the Catskills, he relocated to France in 1983, where he worked in several Michelin-starred houses including Guy Savoy and Taillevent. He followed with successful runs at La Reserve and Restaurant Raphael in New York. In 1986, Thomas opened his first restaurant, Rakel, also in New York, which resulted in extensive critical acclaim and a loyal clientele.
Five years later, Thomas moved westward to California to work as executive chef at Checkers Hotel in Los Angeles. In 1994, he opened The French Laundry in Yountville, which quickly became a destination restaurant known for its innovative, compelling cuisine. His bistro, Bouchon, opened in Yountville in 1998, with Bouchon Bakery following five years later.
In February 2004, Thomas brought his distinct style to New York City with Per Se. The restaurant features his French-influenced contemporary American cuisine presented in a classically elegant space, designed by premier restaurant/hotel designer Adam Tihany. The Michelin Guide New York City has given Per Se its most prestigious recognition, a three star rating, for the past three consecutive years. In addition, the Michelin Guide San Francisco awarded The French Laundry a three-star rating and a one-star rating for Bouchon in 2007 and 2008--making him the only American-born chef to hold multiple three star ratings since the guide's inception in 1900.
A man of exceptionally high personal standards, Thomas values genuine collaboration. He has successfully assembled an expert staff that shares his philosophy and vision, thus enabling him to concentrate on his many varied interests. He is the author of the award-winning "The French Laundry" cookbook, and released his second book "Bouchon," in November 2004. A third cookbook "Under Pressure" on sous vide cooking was released in the fall of 2008. Thomas has collaborated with Raynaud and the design firm Level on a collection of simple, sophisticated white porcelain dinnerware called "Hommage" (in honor of the great French chef and restaurateur, Fernand Point); and has launched Modicum, a Napa Valley Cabernet, blended to best accompany the cuisine at The French Laundry and Per Se. Keller has also worked closely with the computer animation studio Pixar, consulting on the film Ratatouille, which won the 2007 "Best Animated Feature Film" category at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
In 2001, Thomas was named "America's Best Chef" by Time magazine. In 2003, Johnson & Wales University conferred upon him the honorary Degree of Doctor of Culinary Arts for his contributions to the industry. Thomas has collected many accolades within the last decade, including consecutive "Best Chef" awards from the James Beard Foundation, the first chef ever to achieve this honor. In 2007 he added their "Outstanding Restaurateur" award to the roster, along with a "Chef of the Year" recognition from The Culinary Institute of America. The Monterey Bay Aquarium recently chose him as the recipient of their 2009 Cooking for Solutions Conservation Leadership Award for his leadership and advocacy for sustainable seafood.
Thomas now has eight restaurants in the United States. In addition to The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon, branches of Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery opened in Las Vegas in 2004. In early 2006, Bouchon Bakery opened in the Time Warner Center in New York City. Ad Hoc, a casual dining establishment inspired by the comfort food he enjoyed growing up, opened later that year in Yountville, California. Thomas will open an outpost of Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery in Beverly Hills slated for the fall of 2009.