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{ C’est si bon! } Thomas Keller Awarded . French Laundry | Yountville

Last week I was honored to photograph a special day for world renown  Chef Thomas Keller at his Yountville restaurant, the French Laundry. On a beautiful day, surrounded by his stellar staff,  food & wine celebrities and Thomas’ friends, Thomas  celebrated his coronation as a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. Eloquence Strings brought a wonderful tune to a beautiful day as well.

Russ Parsons of LA times writes:

Keller had an East Coast celebration a couple of weeks ago at his Per Se restaurant. Thursday’s party was his West Coast version and in addition to friends and family drew a wide range of Bay Area culinary notables, including Cecilia Chiang, the 92-year-old founder of San Francisco’s Mandarin restaurant, and Chuck Williams, the 96-year-old founder of Williams-Sonoma. Of course there were chefs, Roland Passot of La Folie, Keller’s protege Corey Lee of Benu, Gary Danko, David Kinch from Manresa and Michael Tusk from Quince and Cotogna.

And this was the Napa Valley, so of course there were lots of famous winery names — Dan Duckhorn, Naoko Dalle Valle, Dick and Ann Grace, Bill and Deborah Harlan, Annette and Doug Shafer and Ann Colgin.

Various speakers extolled Keller and his contributions. Chez Panisse’s Alice Waters spoke on the importance of the Legion of Honor. Bay Area legends Margrit Mondavi and Williams extolled him as a worthy inheritor. His mentor, master chef Roland Henin, talked about Keller as a young professional. And I made some comments about his friendship and the kind of example he sets for cooks and writers everywhere. A representative from U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson’s office presented a congressional resolution in his honor.

Paolo Lucchesi of the SF Scoop writes:

Alice Waters — with Julia Child, one of two other American chefs to receive the honor — kicked off the festivities with a teary-eyed speech about French cuisine and Keller’s influences in the Bay Area.

LA Times food editor Russ Parsons followed her on stage, recounting his first revelatory experiences with Keller’s food. After revealing that Keller will resurrect his column for the LA Times in a few weeks, Parsons closed by explaining how Keller’s unyielding pursuit of excellence is a constant inspiration for chefs and writers alike.

Then came Corey Lee of Benu, who got the biggest laughs for his story about staging in France, complete with some Thomas/Hubert Keller confusion.

He was followed by a pantheon of legends: Margrit Mondavi, 96-year-old Chuck Williams (flanked by the ever-vibrant Cecilia Chiang, now 92), and last but not least, master chef and Keller mentor Roland Henin, who told the story of how he first came to hire Keller.

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