American chef, cookbook author and restaurateur Thomas Keller is known for bringing American cuisine — the American cuisine that put the U.S. on the culinary map — to the forefront.
Chef and proprietor of The French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Bar Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc, Keller is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide. Decorated by the James Beard Foundation, Culinary Institute of America and The French Legion of Honor, as well as a New York Times best-selling author, Keller has made an indelible mark on the gastronomic culture around the world.
Now, as Keller is making his way into the housewares industry — lending his name to cutlery manufacturer Cangshan for a new line of knives — he is speaking exclusively to GOURMET INSIDER® about current food trends, what’s on the horizon for the culinary industry and how he would choose to properly outfit any home kitchen.
GI: Can you discuss the evolution of food and dining you’ve seen in your career?
TK: I started cooking in 1974 professionally and when you think back to that time, the culinary profession and access for home cook were not where it is today. Around the country, unique suppliers, farmers, fishermen and foragers have really made their bounty available to the consumer. Chefs have always been driving that, but it has really changed the face of cooking on the consumer end. Consumers can go to the grocery store today and see an abundance of different types of ingredients and different types of products that have become available because of the evolution of dining.
GI: What was your first purchase for your own kitchen?
TK: When I came home from France, the first piece of cookware I bought was a Wagner 10-inch cast iron skillet, which I still have today. I did everything in that skillet while I worked up to purchasing more cookware that augmented that pan.
GI: How should a home cook outfit their kitchen, according to you?
TK: The equation to good cooking is ingredients and execution, which has to do with building your skills. Having the best possible tools that you can get, and the best possible equipment is a very important thing. You have to have tools that are durable, whether it’s a great sauté pan, a great strainer, or good knives. If you have a great knife, then you should have a great cutting board — they pair well together. Invest in a really good cutting board; it will make a difference. There are many options; I like to recommend a board that has both heft and size. All of these things are really important. If you’re going to try to buy something, try to buy the very best and then add to it over time. Make sure you’re thoughtful about outfitting your kitchen.
For the full interview with Keller, including his thoughts on Farm-to-Table, the future of gastronomy in America and advice he would give to home cooks just starting out, see the March/April 2019 issue of Gourmet Insider.