A Walk With Thomas Keller

When my family spent 2 weeks vacationing in Napa Valley, I had no idea how well I would get to know Thomas Keller.  Let's be clear on one thing, I have not met Thomas Keller.  I feel as if I know this incredible person by encountering his passion for all things culinary, which are engrained in the charming city of Yountville.  You gain insight into his varied interest by experience his public garden, his many restaurants, his lifestyle magazine and his gift shop Finesse. 

I enjoyed daily wanderings through his 3-acre culinary garden, located across the street from his three-starred Michelin restaurant, The French Laundry.   As I strolled between the garden rows, I would cook up dishes in my mind with the lush produce.   Unlike many other showcase gardens, his are open to the public.  The garden plots are connected with inviting grassy walkways.  At times, the gardens are filled with chefs and gardeners that are more than happy to chat with visitors about the latest crop.  These casual walks gave me a peek into the life of a chef making their daily selections for the garden-to-table menus.  The garden acts as a test site, and provides 30 percent of the produce for The French Laundry.

As for his restaurants, I'm proud to say that I went to Bouchon Bakery 14 days in a row.  This place is a baker's heaven! I was even known to watch the pastry chefs through the side window while they repetitively dipped cookies in chocolate.  

If you want to feel like a Parisian, head over to Bouchon Bistro for bistro cuisine extraordinaire.  This is where you'll want to enjoy bubbles and oysters in an energetic setting.  

If you're looking for an inexpensive, casual alternative to experience Thomas Keller cuisine, Addendum is perfect.  It is tucked away in the most charming of courtyards surrounded by bountiful vegetable and flower gardens.  All seating is outdoors, but the weather is usually beautiful. Addendum is the addition to the Ad Hoc restaurant that serves Southern inspired boxed lunches to go.  The walk-up lunch only location serves the best fried chicken with lightly sweetened, full of flavor cornbread.  Their sign boasts 'Hunger relief on the go'.  Need I say more? 

Finesse is the 450 square foot shop filled with Keller-branded items.  You'll find an array of pantry staples, cookbooks, garden accessories, apparel and Chef Thomas Keller's favored restaurant items.  This adorable shop is the culmination of how Thomas Keller has filled Yountville with his extraordinary presence. Having read his cookbooks, experienced his restaurants and gardens I now see why he is among the most decorated chefs in the world and considered the unofficial mayor of Yountville.