French Chef Thomas Keller and the new BMW ActiveHybrid 7.
THOMAS KELLER--the brains and brawn behind Napa Valley's French Laundry and NYC's Per Se--and I have met a few times, though he wouldn't know me from Adam. Each time, he's been gracious and familiar, a Bill Clinton of the culinary world in terms of making you feel important. At this year's James Beard Media awards, Keller won the General Cooking award for Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan Books 2009). Congratulating him, he thanked you and shook your hand like you gave him the award.

That's how I always feel at his restaurants: Welcome. In on the recipe and the plan for the night. His food is inventive and modern, sure, but always flavorful and approachable with a sense of home. It's comfortable. It's luxurious (the prix fixe dinner at Per Se runs about $300 before wine, taxes and gratuity), but considering the many courses, including multiple amuse bouches. It's actually a pretty good deal.

Thus, it's no surprise that Keller has partnered with BMW North America for an enhanced "guest experience" at The French Laundry. Beginning this month, guests can take advantage of a concierge service featuring the new BMW ActiveHybrid 7

The arrangement is a perfect marriage. The two (Keller and the BMW) announced their engagement, according to a press release, at the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, where Chef Keller was a guest at the tournament. Both Chef Keller and the ActiveHybrid strive to pair luxury and earth-friendly pragmatism. Keller sources local ingredients (often to the point where area farmers deliver fresh ingredients to The French Laundry's kitchen door), while the ActiveHybrid 7 combines an electric motor with BWM's 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 and a new eight-speed (yes eight) automatic transmission. Zero to 60 in 4.7 seconds? Are those your taste buds when you sample Chef Keller's Herb Roasted Rib-Eye of Snake River Farm's Beef "pain Perdu," or BMW's acceleration rate?

“As a BMW owner for more than 32 years, I’ve always appreciated the brand’s attention to precision and detail because my very first vehicle was a BMW 320i,” said Keller in a press release. 

“The number one hobby and interest of BMW customers is fine dining, which makes a partnership with Thomas Keller and The French Laundry a natural fit,” said Tom Kowaleski, Vice President Corporate Communications, BMW of North America, in that same release.

To celebrate, Keller and his team have introduced a special "BMW-inspired" dish to The French Laundry's menu, featuring Four Story Hill Farm Apple Fed Pork Loin with Bratwurst, Braised Red Cabbage, Apple Dumplings and Grain Mustard Sauce, all reflecting BMW's Bavarian roots. The dish was made available the evening of the BMW-French Laundry pairing.

Frivolous? Not likely. Think about Napa / Sonoma diners who've been sampling the area's wines all day. Think about French Laundry diners, who are enjoying a wine or beer pairing with each course. Unusual pairings are in Kellar's blood. I once dined at Keller's Per Se for a beer pairing with Brooklyn Brewery (where I had the opportunity to savor the extremely limited piece de resistance Reinschwiensgebot or "Bacon Beer." Brewmaster Garrett Oliver crafted this complex concoction specifically for the meal, and Keller's staff paired it specifically with the above-mentioned Rib-Eye. No mere trifle this. Keller knows what he's doing when he pairs Odd Couples. We look forward to the ride. 

Keller has introduced a special BMW-inspired dish.
Images: TOP: Jim Sully / Newscast via BMW. BOTTOM: Thomas Keller Restaurant Group via BMW


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    Robert Haynes-Peterson is an editor and writer based in New York City. When not exploring the vineyards of Mendoza, the distilleries of Cognac or the resorts of Hawaii, he can be found pursuing the next great meal or cocktail wherever he's landed.


    October 2010
    September 2010


    Food And Wine
    French Laundry
    St. Supery
    Tag Heuer
    Thomas Keller