No one has done more to elevate the flavors and presentation of French food in the U.S. than chef Thomas Keller. Inspired by visits to his restaurants, FEMME ROUGE returned to our kitchen to recreate his culinary marvels for our readers. You too can try this at home!
Simply stated, Thomas Keller is a culinary artist and restaurateur. As a teenager he spent his summers working as a dishwasher, and later a cook, at the restaurant his mother managed in Palm Beach. As a young man, Keller was invited to be the chef at a French restaurant in Catskill, New York called, La Riva. After several years there, he took a sojourn in Paris, undertaking several apprenticeships at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Returning to New York, Keller opened his first restaurant, Rakel, in 1987, earning a two-star review from The New York Times. Unfortunately, most of his clientele took a financial hit when the market crashed, and Rakel was taken with them. Refusing to allow the fate of his first restaurant to hold him back, he set his sights on an old French steam laundry in Napa Valley that had been converted to a restaurant but later closed. He worked hard to raise the funds to reopen it to his standards, and his work paid off. The French Laundry is now a destination restaurant attracting epicureans from around the world. The restaurant’s success prompted Keller to open an east coast version in New York called Per Se. The two kitchens use real-time video feed to stay connected.
FEMME ROUGE had several delightful visits to Keller’s establishments. At The French Laundry and Per Se the meal lasts a minimum of two hours, spanning so many delectible courses, we lost count after number seven!
In Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Montage, Keller’s Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery provided a more relaxed atmosphere with equally gourmet offerings.
In total Keller has eight branches of his restaurants and two bakeries in the U.S. He is the only American-born chef to be designated a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France, and holds many other accolades for his exceptional work. In addition to mega-chef and restaurant mogul, Keller can also add author to his résumé having written five cookbooks, one of which was on The New York Times’ Best Seller List for six consecutive weeks.
Our experience in the kitchen
It took us three tries to practice these recipes, and at times we felt like Olympic hopefuls training to take the gold. Yet the fourth attempt garnered a prize more delicious, memorable, and gratifying than we had expected. To reach for the culinary stars, here’s what you’ll need:
PATIENCE LIKE THE DALAI LAMA
All that tiny knife work takes time, so consider it “me time” to meditate over the carrots and parsley on your cutting board.
TIME LIKE RIP VAN WINKLE
Although you don’t have to sit and watch it simmer, the “Quick” Sauce in our Duck Roulade recipe takes several hours to reach its flavor potential.
FORGIVENESS LIKE MOTHER TERESA
Yes, we burned some sauce, tried to cut corners, and jumped out of our skin as hot oil and liquid bone marrow combined to make fireworks on the stove. It wasn’t always pretty, but with hard work and practice, we achieved culinary greatness and you will too!
Please remember, dear reader, that Rome was not built in a day and neither was this menu. We have noted the steps that should be done ahead to simplify your meal prep and allow you to enjoy assembling (and eating) your feast.