For most chefs Thomas Keller is an enormous source of inspiration. His Napa restaurant, French Laundry, made him famous and he has now expanded his incredible talent to Per Se, in New York, and his bakery, Bouchon, in Las Vegas and Napa.. His belief in sourcing seasonal ingredients from local purveyors as opposed to wholesalers and supply chains has earned him many accolades and has influenced many chefs who are now opening restaurants with similar beliefs. (If you are in Chicago check out The Bristol and The Grocery, fabulous.)
I recently had the extreme pleasure of meeting Thomas Keller and cannot speak highly enough of him. He was in Chicago, visiting the Williams-Sonoma on Michigan Avenue, to sign copies of his latest book, Under Pressure. The book, a beautifully manicured guide to sous vide cooking, is worth every penny. The pictures are stunning, the layout flows beautifully and the explanation of assembly superb. Most people will use the book as inspiration, as opposed to following the recipes to a T, or attempting to prepare sous vide. But that is perfectly ok with him. In an interview a few years ago with Powell’s books in Portland, Oregon, he reiterated his belief that recipes should not be a specific roadmap or a blueprint for your food, rather a source of inspiration, a loose guide for flavor combinations and techniques.
This, among with his belief of using local and seasonal ingredients, is one of the reasons I find Chef Keller to be such an important influence in our culinary culture today. I cannot speak enough about the importance of trying to use local and seasonal ingredients. It is better for the environment, it is better for the small farmer, it is better for your health and the food tastes better! Think about how much better a strawberry that you purchase from your farmer’s market in June tastes than a strawberry flown from South America in December. There’s a reason for it! Eating seasonally means you are getting produce that is picked when ripe which in turn means all the vitamins, minerals and flavor compounds have been allowed to mature. When you are buying berries in the dead of winter they not only taste drastically far from a ripe summer berry, but they are lacking a lot of important nutrients.
So, my message for you all today is try and visit your farmers market this summer. Even if you only purchase one or two things, I believe you will feel good that you are supporting a local farmer and feel good that you are providing your body with beautiful food that tastes incredible. Plus it’s a fun thing to do during these months of lovely weather! My favorite market is the Green City Market in Chicago, at the south end of Lincoln Park. If you are there early on a Saturday you will most certainly see me running about smelling produce, picking up fresh flowers and noshing on a whole grain scone. Come say hello! And you can meet some amazing people along the way….
Thank you, Chef Keller, for helping inspire people with ingredients, dishes and beautiful cuisine.