French Laundry and Per Se chef Thomas Keller, who has earned three Michelin stars for both of those restaurants, appeared in a quiz segment on the syndicated NPR show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" over the weekend. The appearance was in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Keller taking over the Laundry, which happened in 1994, and Keller brought along one of his signatures that is still served at both restaurants the salmon "ice cream cone," which the hosts joke about being too tiny.
Keller insists that an amuse-bouche like this is "one of the most important parts of the meal," serving as an ice-breaker in what could be an intimidating place for some. "Not only does it make them smile...but because it tastes like something familiar that they've had in the past, basically a cracker with sour cream and salmon on top, and because it's familiar they like it."
Also, Keller jokes, that you'd better "come to French Laundry or Per Se with somebody you like," given that meals take a minimum of three and a half hours.
In response to a question, "Why did you call it The French Laundry?", Keller explains that the name was not his doing, recounting that the Yountville restaurant initially opened with that name in 1978 (under the ownership of Don and Sally Schmitt, now of Philo Apple Farm). And the name had been inspired by one of the original uses of the stone building, as a French steam laundry in the 1920s.
Then the show's hosts set about quizzing Keller on the topic of actual laundry, and clothes-cleaning, because these are the sorts of things that amuse the dorks and elderlies who regularly listen to this show.
In related news, as Eater reports, the website for the The French Laundry and the one for his Thomas Keller Restaurant Group were hacked by apparent Syrian hackers over the weekend, from the Syrian Electronic Army.
And thus the wars of the Middle East have finally made it to Napa.