Thomas Keller, who helped transform the American dining landscape both with his own restaurants and by mentoring a generation of chefs and restaurateurs, is being inducted into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame in May.
He will be honored at this year’s Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters gala, sponsored by Ventura Foods, at the Drake Hotel in Chicago on May 16.
The hall of fame honors chefs who have spent their careers promoting culinary excellence in American foodservice. Past winners have included Daniel Boulud, Jeremiah Tower, Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, José Andrés and Wolfgang Puck.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am that we are finally inducting Thomas Keller into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame, an honor that is long-overdue,” said Nation’s Restaurant News senior food and beverage editor Bret Thorn. “Chef Keller has not only changed the way Americans think about fine dining, but he has mentored a pantheon of chefs — including Grant Achatz, Corey Lee, Eric Ziebold, Jonathan Benno and many more — who have shared Keller’s vision of culinary excellence and exemplary service standards.”
Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide, for Per Se in New York City and The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. He was also the first American male chef to be named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France. In 2017, Keller led Team USA to win the gold medal in the Bocuse d’Or competition, the first time the United States has won that honor.
Mentoring young chefs continues to be a priority for Keller, and the Ment’or Foundation, which he co-founded with Boulud and Jérôme Bocuse, has awarded nearly $1.4 million in grants since 2014 to 121 young chefs at more than 75 restaurants in 14 countries.
Keller started his career in the restaurant business as a dishwasher at a restaurant managed by his mother in Palm Beach, Fla. In 1983 he moved to France to apprentice in multiple fine-dining restaurants before opening his first restaurant, Rakel, in New York City, in 1986. He later moved to California, and in 1994 he purchased The French Laundry from its original owners, Don and Sally Schmitt. It was there that he began to change the way Americans thought about dining.
Keller continues to expand his operations in the United States with the recent opening of The Surf Club Restaurant in Surfside, Fla., in 2018, and La Calenda in Yountville, Calif., and TAK Room in New York City in 2019.
He is also the author of five cookbooks, with more than 1.3 million copies in print.
MenuMasters is an invitation-only event for foodservice executives. Follow #MenuMasters on social media to join the excitement, and get more information on the gala and how to attend at informaconnect.com/menumasters/.