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Scored French Laundry Resos in October but Thomas Keller won't be there

Buffalove Aug 11, 2011 06:48 PM

I'm so excited that I was able to get a reservation for dinner at the French laundry in October! My husband and I no longer live in San Francisco and will have to plan a trip to the West Coast for this dinner. I just found out that Chef Keller and much of his staff will be in London for the pop up FL in early October and will not be in Yountville.

I'm second guessing whether we should keep the reservation or not given that this meal will be a stretch for us financially and we want to have the best possible experience. Should we keep the reso or cancel and try again for another time?

The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

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  1. v
    vulber RE: Buffalove Aug 12, 2011 03:19 AM

    in all honesty, ever since he hired his first chef de cuisine (and especially after he opened per se in NY), he hasn't reliably been in the kitchen most nights, so i wouldn't worry

    3 Replies
    1. re: vulber
      Tripeler RE: vulber Aug 12, 2011 05:54 AM

      Vulber gives a truly great answer. Let me add that I am certain that FL is so well run that very few would note Keller's absence. Unless seeing and meeting Keller is one of your main desires, just go there anyway and enjoy the experience.

      1. re: vulber
        Robert Lauriston RE: vulber Aug 12, 2011 08:41 AM

        Keller being gone would not be unusual, but he's reportedly taking over a dozen staff members with him.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Buffalove RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2011 08:47 AM

          Yes, Keller not being there doesn't bother me as much as the staff. I fear that the quality will suffer if he's taking all his best kitchen staff to London with him....

      2. CarrieWas218 RE: Buffalove Aug 12, 2011 09:31 AM

        Keller's staff is so well-trained that I would trust the dishwashers in the kitchen to prepare a fabulous meal...

        I don't think you would know that a portion of the staff is missing. He is such a perfectionist, he won't allow for there to be a lesser experience for anyone visiting The French Laundry. If he was concerned about it, he would close the restaurant (which he has done in the past).

        The French Laundry
        6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

        4 Replies
        1. re: CarrieWas218
          Robert Lauriston RE: CarrieWas218 Aug 12, 2011 09:35 AM

          You'd think so, but it's hard to imagine that anyplace has enough slack to cover for over a dozen employees being out at once.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            drewskiSF RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 12, 2011 09:48 AM

            who knows. maybe he's taking 6 from FL and 6 from Per Se? saves on airfare too :)

            1. re: drewskiSF
              Robert Lauriston RE: drewskiSF Aug 12, 2011 10:06 AM

              Seems likely. Or a few from each and recruiting some former employees.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston
              vulber RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 13, 2011 01:27 AM

              wouldn't surprise me if he takes some from bouchon and ad hoc too; they tend to move around a lot between restaurants

          2. uhockey RE: Buffalove Aug 12, 2011 03:59 PM

            Given his obsession with perfection I find it hard to believe he'd do anything to compromise the experience - as long as Hollingsworth is still there with some of hus sous chefs I'm sure it will still be top notch.


            1 Reply
            1. re: uhockey
              honkman RE: uhockey Aug 13, 2011 01:44 PM

              The last time Keller had a "pop-up" in Hong Kong last year he also took Hollingsworth with him.

            2. s
              sugartoof RE: Buffalove Aug 13, 2011 08:11 AM

              I could see why you would hesitate to dine with the B team at an establishment you had been anticipating experiencing. The upside is maybe he'll leave behind a rising star or two who have something to prove. Also, if the dishes are poorly executed, you'll know early in the meal, and can address the problem. My take on the FL kitchen is there's a lot more monkey see, monkey do than the image lets on. I've had some meals from former chefs, and while competent, it was clear that not all Keller alumni are geniuses, even if they turned out Keller quality food while working under him.

              1. Ruth Lafler RE: Buffalove Aug 13, 2011 08:52 AM

                Just to add one more aspect: the kitchens at Per Se and French Laundry are linked by video screens so he can oversee what's going on in both restaurants. I'd be shocked if he didn't have a similar set-up installed in London.

                The French Laundry
                6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

                5 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  zin1953 RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 13, 2011 10:31 AM

                  Yes, well -- let's not forget about the time change . . .

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    vulber RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 24, 2011 12:52 PM

                    keller has also admitted that these seemed like a much better idea than they actually are and are rarely used

                    1. re: vulber
                      Ruth Lafler RE: vulber Aug 24, 2011 01:03 PM

                      Really? The articles I've read imply that they use them all the time, or at least, that they're on all the time, whether or not they're being actively monitored.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        CarrieWas218 RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 24, 2011 01:35 PM

                        The last few times I have been there and toured the kitchen, they were definitely on. Not sure how much interaction is going on, but they are a presence.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                          drewskiSF RE: Ruth Lafler Aug 24, 2011 07:36 PM

                          Rockpool in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth has a similar setup of monitors to watch the sister kitchens.

                    2. Beach Chick RE: Buffalove Aug 13, 2011 08:56 AM

                      'given that this meal will be a stretch for us financially'
                      You'll also have to plan a trip to the West Coast for this dinner..
                      I'd nix it..try the London location since your east coast and go around Thanksgiving..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Beach Chick
                        sugartoof RE: Beach Chick Aug 13, 2011 10:18 AM

                        You know, I think FL will perform just fine, but based around the uncertainty, if there's an anxiety or stress over it, they should nix it. Plenty of other great meals to be had.

                      2. b
                        bonbonluv2eat RE: Buffalove Aug 24, 2011 12:40 PM

                        I spoke to the reservationist today and he confirmed that Thomas will be taking Hollingsworth with him to London and will be right back after the tenth.

                        1. thew RE: Buffalove Aug 24, 2011 01:55 PM

                          very few big name chefs cook every meal in their places, or even many.. sometimes none. your experience will be the same for the most part as if he were there - the food will be the same for sure. enjoy

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: thew
                            sugartoof RE: thew Aug 24, 2011 06:06 PM

                            I think part of the concern is he's taking staff, including some who would normally cook your meal, with him.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              thew RE: sugartoof Aug 25, 2011 07:01 AM

                              i get it - but I'm pretty sure he's not going to leave his flagship in poor hands

                              1. re: thew
                                wolfe RE: thew Aug 25, 2011 07:05 AM

                                That is probably what White Star thought about Edward Smith.

                                1. re: wolfe
                                  zin1953 RE: wolfe Aug 25, 2011 07:25 AM

                                  Ooooh, that's cold . . .

                                  1. re: zin1953
                                    wolfe RE: zin1953 Aug 25, 2011 09:32 AM

                                    My son reminds me there is no need to worry with reins in capable hands sous chef Molly Brown.

                          2. Paul H RE: Buffalove Aug 24, 2011 01:57 PM

                            Alice Waters hasn't cooked in the Chez Panisse kitchen since 1983, but no one cancels reservations because of that, and TFL is a much more professional restaurant. The most important characteristic of a top-level (Michelin 3-star) professional restaurant is consistency. I wouldn't worry about it.

                            Chez Panisse
                            1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

                            1. w
                              Waterboy RE: Buffalove Aug 25, 2011 12:05 PM

                              It's one meal.

                              If a stretch financially, why bother? I certainly wouldn't. You can likely sell the reservation.

                              Hey, invest in cooking at home with best groceries. You might buy some things you don't now have and acquire the ability to cook great chow. Not to mention being way ahead $$-wise.

                              Some take out a loan to say they ate there. Call me crazy, but that's nuts.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Waterboy
                                wolfe RE: Waterboy Aug 25, 2011 03:07 PM

                                "You can likely sell the reservation."
                                I am not sure that is possible.

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