The French Laundry in Napa, California, has been an outpost of culinary wizardry for over 20 years. Thomas Keller is the man behind its great success, a chef who has gone on to open other restaurants, but for whom The French Laundry will always be his home kitchen. Perhaps he is most famous for his simple yet clever dish of salmon tartare served in a sweet ice-cream cone. Distinctive, delicious and easy to prepare for large groups, you can make this at home with the very same recipe found in his French Laundry cookbook. But the book has far more than recipes. It has insights and anecdotes from years of making excellent cuisine, working with outstanding suppliers and running the best restaurant in the US. Sure, you can get the recipe for Roasted Sweetbreads with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Braised Belgian Endive, and Black Truffle Sauce. Or Citrus-Marinated Salmon with a Confit of Navel Orangers, Beluga Caviar, and Pea Shoot Coulis. But you can also read about how one of his fishmongers happens to be a Fulbright scholar or his cheesemaker is an attorney, why the blini is underrated and why the quality of food doesn’t necessarily determine the success of a restaurant. The French Laundry cookbook is as much a classic as Thomas Keller’s restaurant is an icon. It’s the kind of cookbook you’ll find on the shelves in renowned kitchens the world over. Chefs get inspired by it, and so can you. Whether you follow the recipes or simply find new ways to use ingredients, this book captures the soul of a chef and a place, and allows you to recreate this at home.
The French Laundry, Thomas Keller. Photography by Deborah Jones. R500 at Chefs Warehouse.