In the summers when work was slow in Florida, Thomas took cooks jobs in Rhode Island where he met Roland Henin, one of approximately 60 master chefs in the U.S. Henin hired Thomas to cook staff meals at his Dunes Club and soon became a strong mentor for the upcoming chef. Keller learned the fundamentals of classic French cuisine under Henin's guidance and later in life Keller helped select Henin to coach for the Bocuse d'Or.
Keller eventually left the Dunes Club and took several positions back in Florida until an opportunity came up to work as a prep cook at a small French restaurant called La Rive in Catskill, New York. It was here, still under the mentorship of Henin that Keller learned to cure meats in a smokehouse he built and cook entrails and offal from local purveyors. Keller wanted to purchase the restaurant from the family, but it wasn't to be, so he moved on to work in New York and eventually in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris including Taillevent, Guy Savoy, and Le Pré Catalan.
Keller returned to America in 1984, he was hired as chef de cuisine at La Reserve in New York. In 1987, he left to open Rakel a refined French restaurant catering to the expensive palates of Wall Street executives. When those expensive palates got a jolt of the bottomed out market in the late 80's, Keller split from his partner, not willing to compromise his style of cooking for that down-sizing market.
For the next ten or so years Keller took various consulting and chef jobs in Los Angeles and in New York, looking for the right opportunity. In 1992, that opportunity presented itself in a restaurant converted from an old (circa 1890's) French steam laundry in Yountville, California. For the next year and a half, he worked hard to raise the money to purchase the restaurant and opened in the summer of 1994 and over the next few years earned numerous prestigious awards from the James Beard Foundation, gourmet magazines, and eventually earning the Five Star Award from the ''Mobil Travel Guide'' in 1999, which it has held ever since. In1997, Ruth Reichl, then food critic of The New York Times, had called the French Laundry the most exciting restaurant in America.
The French Laundry has featured a new menu every day since it opened. The menu at The French Laundry consists of prix fixe (fixed price, $270.00 USD per person) tastings of usually five to nine dishes.
In 1999, Thomas Keller published ''The French Laundry Cookbook''. That year it won three International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) awards for Cookbook of the Year, Julia Child "First Cookbook" Award, and Design Award. It is now in its 16th printing.
After the success of The French Laundry, Thomas and his brother, Joseph Keller (currently owner/chef of Josef's in Las Vegas), opened Bouchon in 1998. Of Bouchon...Thomas Keller says on the Bouchon website "French bistro food is my favorite - steak frites, a two-inch high quiche with bacon and onions, a salad with an egg on top finished with a perfect vinaigrette, a croque madame, some oysters and a glass of champagne. These are foods that represent the most important kind of cooking there is because they're rooted in tradition" In January 26, 2004, a Las Vegas outpost of Bouchon opened in the Venezia Tower of The Venetian Hotel and Casino.
Bouchon Bakery opening next door a few years later. In 2006 Keller opened a branch of the bakery in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan). In January 26, 2004, a Las Vegas outpost of Bouchon opened in the Venezia Tower of The Venetian Hotel and Casino.
On December 31st, 2003 the French Laundry closed its doors for three months so the staff could move to New York to train the Per Se team. On February 16th 2004, Keller's newest vision, Per Se restaurant opened its doors with Keller's Chef de Cuisine, Jonathan Benno at the helm. Chef Benno had been in training for the job at Per Se since 2001, when Keller invited him to come work at the French Laundry. On February 21st, a fire broke out in the walls of the Per Se kitchen, forcing Keller to close for more than two months, to open on May 1st. The New York Times reviewer Frank Bruni awards Per Se four stars on September 8th, 2004.
Keller has become the only American chef to be awarded three Michelin stars for two different restaurants, the French Laundry and Per Se.
On the side: Prior to the opening of The French Laundry, Thomas Keller started a small olive oil company called EVO, Inc. in 1992, with his girlfriend of the time, to distribute Provençal-style olive oil and red wine vinegar. Recently, Keller started marketing a line of signature white Limoges porcelain dinnerware by Reynaud called ''Point'' (in homage to French chef and restaurateur, Fernand Point) that he helped design and a collection of silver hollow ware by Christofle. He has also attached his name to a set of signature knives manufactured by MAC.
*Best American Chef: California, James Beard Foundation, 1996
*Outstanding Chef: America, James Beard Foundation, 1997
*Chef of the Year, ''Bon Appétit Magazine'', 1998
*Voted #1 - Top Food, ''Zagat Guide to the Bay Area'', 1998-2003
*Five-Star Award, ''Mobil Travel Guide'', 1999-2004
*Favorite Restaurant in the U.S. - Restaurant Experts' Poll, ''Food & Wine Magazine'', 2000
*Top Restaurant for Food, ''Wine Spectator Magazine'', 2000
*America's Best Chef, ''TIME Magazine'', 2001
*Outstanding Wine Service Award, James Beard Foundation, 2001
*Outstanding Service Award, James Beard Foundation, 2003
*Best Restaurant in the World, ''Restaurant Magazine'', 2003-2004
*Best New Restaurant (Per Se), James Beard Foundation, 2005
*Michelin Guide New York, 3 Stars for Per Se, November 2005 – 2011
*Michelin Guide Bay Area, 3 Stars for The French Laundry, 2006–2011
*Gayot Top 40 Restaurants in the US (French Laundry) 2004 – 2010
*Gayot Top 40 Restaurants in the US (Per Se) 2010
*Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor, presented by Chef Paul Bocuse on March 29, 2011 in NYC
* The French Laundry official website
* The Bouchon official website
* The Bouchon Bakery official website
* The Per Se official website
* The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group official site
Text from Wikipedia!