This is what I keep thinking about. If Governor Gavin Newsom was found on the patio of a small neighborhood bistro shortly after urging Californians to stay home last November, he didn’t blog about today’s recall.
Instead, Mr. Newsom was seen at The French Laundry and attended the birthday dinner of Sacramento lobbyist Jason Kinney. His image of hobbing with guests indoors without a mask at one of the most expensive restaurants in the country was immediately and powerfully symbolic.
Chef Thomas Keller took over the Yontoville restaurant in the mid-’90s, defining the sensibilities, playful and luxurious equivalents of American fine dining of the era. Reservations were not possible (and continue to be impossible). Dishes such as silky tuna tartare in small, crisp cones have been widely reproduced, but most restaurants simply cannot recreate the atmosphere — lush gardens, fresh black truffles. Perfume, perfectly pressed uniform.
As a line cook in my twenties, I studied recipes and photography in a French Laundry cookbook. I hoped that knowledge would be passed on to me, read and reread many times, and the pages would be soft and the edges would be worn out. But shortly before Governor Newsom attended the private party and fueled support for the recall, I felt that the food there sneaked into a luxury spaceship and orbited a burning planet. I have written. I was that overly uncomfortable.
The restaurant’s gorgeous ingredients, meticulous technology and impeccable formal service seemed like a sort of anachronism. The 10-course tasting menu costs about $ 350 per person, and during the pandemic, the restaurant started private indoor dining for $ 850 per person.
It’s no wonder that restaurants have become a very important part of the recall story. Dinner at The French Laundry is no longer a dinner as it is a status symbol, as macaroni and cheese are served in giant golden eggs.