He opened his essay with a concession; “When I was learning to cook, I never dreamed I’d wind up designing a line of porcelain.”
Yesterday, Thomas Keller, chef the of premier echelon restaurants French Laundry and Per Se, reminisced his path to stature and discussed the future of his profession in the LA Times.
Prescribing to philosophies centered on perfection and finesse, Keller vowed loyalty to his artisanship while delicately rationalizing opportunities that face modern chefs.
Chefs today are businessmen as much as they are cooks. Rather than just preparing dishes in a kitchen, we are involved in balancing profit-and-loss statements, analyzing business plans and exploring new ventures.
I believe that a modern chef who wants to execute at every level and make a difference at every level must accept only opportunities that will perpetuate his own philosophy. I suppose alongside “finesse,” you must also add “integrity.”
We always must ask ourselves: “Is this opportunity right for me, for my staff, and for my industry?” If the answer to all three is yes, then you should pursue it to the very best of your ability.
The key word in Keller’s essay is integrity; it is as much prevalent here as in his executions in the kitchen. And although his discussion resonates with a soft eloquence, he donates a solid foundation for future chefs to build, especially at a time when celebrity is sought before perfection.