One more note: You may have noticed that Thomas Keller was at the meal but did not participate at the Judges’ Table. We tried to convince him to be there, but he decided against it, citing that he didn’t want to have to be negative towards the contestants. I worked with Thomas back in the mid-80s at Rakel, where I was his sous-chef, and so I know that this decision comports with his spirit, generally. What Keller created at Rakel was remarkable, and I’m not only referring to the food. He created a kitchen that was completely collaborative and creative. No one was discussing what movie they’d seen the night before or how much beer they’d consumed. Rather, everyone was solely discussing the food and contributing ideas; there was a constant conversation about the food and only the food. This was a time when boundaries were being broken – while the techniques I’m about to describe may now be outdated, it was the first time I saw garnishes going on the rim, or sauces being splattered rather than completely saucing the food. And Thomas was at the forefront of culinary innovation, yet was confident enough to let the entire kitchen take part in creating extraordinary food. He generated excitement among his cooks and investment in what they were participating in creating. And the more everyone partook in that mode of work in the kitchen, the more it honed everyone’s way of thinking about food, which was not only great for each person professionally, but was also great for the restaurant. A cynic could easily twist this to say that Thomas was taking credit for the ideas of others, but he guided us and, ultimately, had the final say, and no – quite the opposite – he was showing deep respect for us and our opinions.
Beginning to prep for Thanksgiving? Enjoy the process … and have a good week.