Per Se Restaurant
Per Se: Thomas Keller
Coming out of the elevator on the fourth floor at the Times Warner Centre, your attention is immediately arrested by a poetically stunning blue door, of the restaurant Per Se, that is besieged by an aesthetic feel of a blooming garden of potted plants, playfully inviting you in. Behind the blue door, one is taken over by a calming sense of serenity and intimacy of the dining room which overlooks the gorgeous views of the Columbus and Central Park. Before drifting to look at the menu, one cannot help but wonder who is behind all this and the answer is simple: Thomas Keller.
Thomas Keller, six foot two, handsome man with slicked-back grey hair was born in 1955 at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California. Growing up he spent a great deal of time with his mother who worked in Palm Beach as a restaurant manager. Barely a year after joining junior college Keller ended up working at a country club in Rhode Island known as Narragansett where he found his calling as a chef under the mentorship of Roland Henin who taught him that food was about nurturing people. A lesson carried on and materialized to his three-starred Michelin restaurant Per Se that not only has an award-winning wine list with more than 2000 selections to choose from but a complementing spontaneous and ever in season daily written nine-course tasting menu and a nine-course vegetable tasting menu that employs French technique and ingredients of the highest possible quality available.
Keller, the chef and proprietor of a handful of well-respected establishments including the largely revered fine dining restaurant, The French Laundry in California, which is essentially a flag sister to Per Se, earned his reputation with his reinterpretation of classic upscale cuisines in a manner that is timeless and artistic yet managed to keep it thoroughly American.
Although set up in a modern skyscraper environment, Per Se designed by Adam Tihany who made subtle allusions to The French Laundry, has a fireplace strategically placed in the middle of the dining room, certainly raising the bar as far as ideal high-culture luxury restaurants go. Per Se offers a distinctively over the top dining experience, served by a brigade of orchestrated servers who not only pace each meal and meet each need but are also captivating bestowers of elaborate tales, about the people who farmed what is served on each plate.
Keller has authored five cookbooks inspired by his restaurants including Ad Hoc and The French Laundry Cookbook. He has also trained and mentored some of today’s respected and popular chefs such as Grant Achatz and Corey Lee. Despite having faced harsh reviews at one point, which Keller interpreted as an opportunity to re-invent himself, Per Se is still one of the highest rating restaurants in New York. His work ethics which materializes as an obsessive vigilance intertwined with his philosophy of what a great meal means guarantees any dinner an emotional journey of discovery and nostalgia to the last bite.