In the end, a great meal is not about the food and the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. The French Laundry, one of the best restaurants of the world, tries to make it an extraordinary one by creating a beautiful place, one filled with staff who cares about it as they do about their home, and care for us as the most guest in it.
The French Laundry, a two-story stone building constructed in the late 1880’s, serve as a saloon. After a town ordinance mandated that no alcohol be served within two miles of Yountville, the building becomes a brothel before finally emerging as a French steam laundry in the late 1920’s.
Don Schmitt, Mayor of Yountville, and his wife Sally purchase the building to operate as a restaurant. Everyone in town knows the property as The French Laundry, and the name sticks.
In 1992, Thomas Keller visits The French Laundry for the first time. In 1994, Thomas raises money to purchase the building from the Schmitts. He hires Laura Cunningham to oversee the modern dining room and opens the doors to his restaurant a few weeks later. The restaurant serves American food with French influences.
The opening night in July is an unmitigated disaster. But the team persevered, and quickly The French Laundry is named one of Ten Best Restaurants by Esquire’s John Mariani. Later that year, Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle nominates it for Best New Restaurant and awards it four stars – only to be topped by Herb Caen’s five-star review by the year’s end.
In 2006, two new Bouchon Backeries open, one in New York and another in Las Vegas. Thomas purchase another property in Yountville and opens Ad Hoc, originally intended as a temporary casual dining restaurant. By the end of the year, he decides to make Ad Hoc a permanent fixture on Washington Street.
At The French Laundry, no detail or element can be less important or more important to another. Because a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and takes you to places you haven’t been before.