Chef Thomas Keller considers the renovation of The French Laundry more of a rebuild; a way to expand and modernize the existing space for employees and guests to be able to continue to have the best possible experience at the restaurant. Inspired by The Louvre, the renovation juxtaposes the original French Laundry space with a contemporary building designed by Craig Dykers of Snøhetta. The world-class kitchen now matches the French Laundry’s reputation and includes elevated workstations, solar panels, and Dekton® walls, countertops, and workbenches. The Dekton® surfacing provides The French Laundry team with a kitchen both easy to clean and extremely resistant to the spills, heat, and other wear and tear that comes with cooking in a busy restaurant.
The French Laundry renovation, located in Yountville, Napa Valley, California, was completed in July 2017. The project spanned two years, nine months and required 200 hours for the countertops alone. Approximately 400 sqft of 2CM Dekton® matte-white Zenith was used for the countertops and waterfall panels. An additional approximately 4000 sqft of Zenith was installed as wall panels.
Thomas Keller is an American chef, restaurateur and cookbook writer. He is renowned for his culinary skills and exceptionally high standards. Within the hospitality profession, he is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide, as well as the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor. Keller began his career working in a Palm Beach restaurant managed by his mother and relocated to France in 1983, where he worked in several Michelin-starred houses. He opened his first restaurant, Rakel, in New York City in 1986 before moving to California. In 1994, Keller bought The French Laundry in Napa Valley, which rapidly captured nation-wide acclaim. The first major design overhaul of the kitchen and surrounding grounds began in January 2015 and is currently underway. Keller is the author of five cookbooks, of which more than one million copies are in print.
Thomas Keller visited Yountville, CA in the early 1990’s looking for a space to establish a destination for fine French cuisine in the Napa Valley. The French Laundry, a 1,600 square-foot structure constructed of river rock and timbers, was built as a saloon in 1900 by a Scottish stonemason. The building later served as a residence, and during the 1920’s operated as a French steam laundry. In 1978, Yountville mayor Don Schmitt and his wife Sally renovated the structure into a restaurant, which Keller then purchased in 1994.
The French Laundry has earned numerous honors and accolades; including three stars from the Michelin Guide San Francisco for the sixth year in a row. The French Laundry is a member of French-based Relais & Chateaux, Relais Gourmands and Traditions & Qualité; organizations recognized for their dedication to maintaining the highest international standards for hospitality and culinary excellence.
The menu at The French Laundry changes daily, affirming the restaurant’s commitment to creating classic French cuisine with the finest quality ingredients.
Q+A with Thomas Keller
Tell us your inspiration behind the “The French Laundry?”
The French Laundry goes way back, it was built as a saloon here in the town of Yountville. A young French couple bought the building and opened a steam laundry there. When I bought it in 1994, I wanted to maintain it’s history and tradition, so we kept calling it The French Laundry.
What drove you to a more contemporary design?
The renovation was more about a rebuild, it was really about redefining the future of the restaurant. Our goal was to create a workspace where individuals could thrive. Our new building is very contemporary, where as the prior building was much more traditional. The juxtaposition between the old and the new was inspired by The Louvre. The tradition was to invite guests back to the kitchen, when I bought the restaurant I wanted to make sure I maintained some of the traditions. This kitchen affords us the opportunity to have our guests come in to the kitchen and be able to spend some time there without feeling like they’re in the way.
Why did you decide to incorporate Dekton® in your design?
We chose Dekton® for a number of different reasons; number one, it has high resistance to heat, which is great. It’s extremely durable, it resists scratches very well and of course, stains, and it’s actually stain proof. From an aesthetic point of views, its quite beautiful, quite stunning, I should say when you walk in. All of the walls as well as all of the work-benches are done in Dekton®.
Do you have any tips for emerging chefs?
Advising the next generation has always been on my mind, I have always loved to mentor young chefs. I think the number one tip is patience, taking the time to learn what they need to learn before moving on to the next phase. The next tip is persistence, I love that word. Don’t let anyone ever tell you, you can’t do something. It’s also important to continue evolving and putting yourself out there.
Project: Kitchen of internationally renowned Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant, The French Laundry
Concept: Commercial Kitchen
Location: Yountville, Napa Valley, California
Completed: July 2017
Duration of the building project: Two years, nine months for the entire renovation. Over 200 hours for the countertops alone.
Architecture/Design: Craig Dykers, Snøhetta
Supplier: Shawn DeOliveira, United Marble and Granite
Countertops: 2CM Dekton matte-white Zenith, with a 1-1/2” Demi Bullnose [Hald Round] Edge; Approx 400 sqft of countertops and waterfall panels were installed
Walls: Dekton matte-white Zenith 0.8CM thick; Approx 4000 sqft of wall material was installed