Yahoo Food is proud to present a new weeklong series called “Master Class.” Throughout the year, we’ll visit with some of America’s top culinary talents and share a behind-the-scenes look at what they do. All this week: the country’s most revered chef, Thomas Keller. Here are the details on a major kitchen overhaul underway at The French Laundry, the restaurant he shaped into one of the world’s best.
A rendering shows how the interior of the finished kitchen will look. (Credit: Snøhetta)
It’s a new day for an iconic restaurant. The French Laundry, the much-lauded culinary landmark in Napa Valley, is in the midst of a major project that involves the construction of a new kitchen and courtyard. The inspiration? No less than the Louvre museum in Paris.
“The French Laundry is being redesigned to be a backdrop worthy of the restaurant’s history,” said chef/owner Thomas Keller in a statement. “We wanted to find a way to juxtapose the historic and the modern while maintaining the high-quality cuisine and service our guests have come to expect from The French Laundry.”
Thomas Keller speaks with Snøhetta founding partner Craig Dykers at the construction site of the new kitchen. (Photo: Meg Smith)
Keller was specifically inspired by the I.M. Pei-designed glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre. Controversial when it debuted in 1989, the pyramid brought a modernity to the centuries-old palace and served a practical purpose, too. The original museum entrance couldn’t accommodate all the visitors to the Louvre, a problem solved by the pyramid and the new lobby beneath it.
The French Laundry project is a two-phase initiative. The first phase involved shutting down the restaurant in December (it re-opens tonight), demolishing the original kitchen structure (you can watch the video on Instagram) and re-installing the stoves, sinks, and other equipment in shipping containers that will serve as temporary kitchens. The second phase is now underway and expected to be finished around year’s end.
The French Laundry team stands inside the new, temporary kitchen. (Photo: Deborah Jones)
The teams behind the project are international design firm Snøhetta, architecture firm Envelope A+D, kitchen design firm Harrison, Koellner, LLC, and Wright Construction. (The latter three are based in California.) Keller declined to share the cost of the project, but it clearly comes with a multi-million dollar price tag.
When the new facilities open later this year, the culinary team will find itself in a true showcase space that is one contiguous room “with a visual connection from station to station.” The color palette? White on white.
A rendering shows what the completed kitchen renovation will look like. (Credit: Snøhetta)
- A kitchen annex that will house a 14,000-bottle wine cellar, prep kitchen, butchery, produce breakdown, and management offices.
- Vaulted ceilings inspired by unfurled white linen tablecloths.
- Large skylights and sound-dampening ceiling panels.
- Customized ventilated ceiling systems controlled by remote sensors.
- Anti-microbial walls, flooring, and workstations made from Dekton surfacing by Cosentino of North America.
- Custom Molteni stoves by Electrolux.
“We now clean the slate, begin anew, and ready ourselves for the next 20 years,” said Keller.
More from our “Master Class” series on Chef Thomas Keller