Grant Achatz credits Thomas Keller with a lot of things, mostly for being an incredible mentor and friend. Keller, who owns The French Laundry and Per Se, is the country's only current chef to hold three Michelin stars for two separate restaurants and truly inspired Achatz to become the award-winning chef he is today.
Over the weekend, Achatz posted a video honoring Keller for the French Laundry's "sweet sixteen," as the restaurant opened 16 years ago in Yountville, Calif. The video, titled "TKRG Respect," begins with an clip of Achatz's acceptance speech from the 2008 James Beard Awards, where he won the Outstanding Chef award, an even bigger accomplishment as he recently completed treatment that would rid him of stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth.
Achatz tells a story about how, at 22, he started at the French Laundry and was "in awe." He said what struck him about the restaurant was "the push. I'd never seen it before in my life. I'd never experienced the discipline, the dedication, the intensity, the tenacity and the drive that the chef and all of the cooks possessed. I pulled that in thinking it was going to make me a good cook and ultimately a great chef. What I didn't know was that it was actually going to save my life." As you can see from the following video, which continues with a text excerpt from Achatz's forthcoming autobiography, Life, On the Line, and then behind-the-scenes footage at Alinea, "the push" clearly is demonstrated by everyone in Achatz's kitchen on a daily basis.