the french laundry

My favorite cookbook of all time is The French Laundry.  It barely has a recipe in it that I, as a vegan can eat, but that doesn't stop me from devouring this cookbook page by page.  For me, it's the epitome of what cooking is all about.  Thomas Keller. When i say his name it is always followed by a deep sigh.  He is my idol and role model in the kitchen.  I adore everything about his approach to food, cooking and presentation.  You could say I have a small/large crush on him.   I have never eaten at the French Laundry, even though our oldest son attended college in the Napa Valley, which may explain why I could never afford to eat there.

There are many reasons to love Thomas Keller.  But for me, one of the biggest reasons is his love for his mother.  Given that I am the mother of 3 sons, his acknowledgement of his mothers influence on his life is what truly gets me.  Here is an excerpt from his book that helped me fall in love with him...

"My mom Betty, was and remains the biggest influence, if that's the word, in my life.  Long before she put me to work, she taught me how to clean our home.  Everything had to shine.  That standard of perfect cleanliness was its own gift, given the work I'd choose.  She was a focused, intense woman, the driving force of the family, and she taught through her own actions.  I honestly don't know who I'd be if I'd been raised by, and had grown up watching someone other than her."

How can you not adore this man?  So on top of that he is an amazing chef.  His attention to detail is staggering.  I often get goosebumps reading the details in his book.  The menus, recipes, photography, side stories are so fabulous that I have re-read this book dozens of times.  It reminds me to stay true to the food I am preparing, to honor it through careful preparation and presentation and to take my time and enjoy the whole process.  So while there are very few things that I can copy or translate to vegan, it remains my favorite cookbook of all time.

I'd love to know what your favorite cookbook is and why.


  1. Hi Janet,
    I find that so interesting that you can love a cook book that isn't vegan. My best friend was given a reservation there for her honeymoon. I was just noticing her signed menu the other day.

    I'm a huge fan of Ina Garten. I find her recipes easy and elegant. I also like the way her books incorporated tips for entertaining. It's funny, whenever we have house guests the women end up in the wingback chair in my kitchen reading my cookbooks while I cook-- I love that.

    Wow, I'm chatty this morning :)

  2. I don't have very many cookbooks, actually. I'm sort of a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of cook and tend to make things up as I go along. But many of my friends, knowing I enjoy cooking, have given me cookbooks as gifts and I think I like Ina's the best, as well, Mostly because I like how she makes everything look effortless. But I haven't seen the French Laundry. It does sound like something I'd like to have, just to look at.

  3. I will have to check it out because it is so relaxing to sit and look through cookbooks! I love what you said about your mom. What an amazing influence. Because I am a mother, it resonates with me! However, I wish I had the love of cleaning as much as your mom! Take care~ Your blog is looking beautiful!


  4. Hi Janet,

    My husband and I tried to get reservations at the French Laundry years ago and couldn't, that was calling over a month ahead of time. We went to Greystone instead for our culinary treat.

    It seems like lately I've been cooking alot out of The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. I even bought it for my daughter and her boyfriend because they are turning into little chefs and love watching the Food Network.


  5. I have many cookbooks from my old worn out Joy of Cooking, to Jamie at Home, and Whitewater cooks...
    I am fickle so I could not choose just one....

    I would love to embrace cleaning!
    We'd sparkle here in the Bungalow if I did!

  6. My friends went to French Laundry and I all got was the wonderful cookbook. I have yet to make anything out of it because I don't want to get it dirty. I did go to Bouchon for lunch while I was in Napa and loved it (as well as the adjacent bakery). I seldom use cookbooks anymore. Searching the internet is quicker to find what I'm looking for. But I do find myself going back to The Moosewood Cookbook again and again for old favorites.

  7. made me wonder - what would my son say about me? definitely not that he caught his love of cleaning from me. :)

    my favorite, go-to cookbooks:

    - veganomicon. full of great recipes, love the little intros before each recipe and the variations they give. layout is easy on my eyes.

    - vegan table. lovely photos, and she shares entertaining tips. everything i've made from it turns out well.

    - joy of vegan baking. vegan baking demystified! i think this would be a great gift to anyone wanting to cut some animal products out of their lives. she covers the full range of vegan baking, great photos and again - everything i've made from it has rocked.

    - conscious cook - for fancier menus. gorgeous photos. guest chefs share recipes. to die for yumminess.

    i'm a libra - no way can i ever choose just one.

  8. Hi Janet!
    I am a huge Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa devotee! We've even met her once! My mother never taught me to cook (I didn't even know what a fresh herb was when I was in my twenties!), so I was late to the scene (think late 30's). I basically learned to cook from Ina- watching her and thinking "that looks easy, I think I can do that!" Under her tutelage I have learned to cook, and in fact cook well! That I have made Ile Flottante is still a delightful surprise!
    In fact, that is what I gave to my weekend guests this weekend... her new cookbook!
    To me Ina epitomizes simple, fresh, elegant cooking. I find her and her cooking to be very genuine!

  9. Hi Janet, I love the French Laundry too! His books are so inspiring visually and that is why we are so drawn to them. He also seems like a very approachable nice person, which is always a bonus in the weird world of celebrity chefs!

    I like Ina too!

    xx kelley

  10. chatty - you should know by now how interesting i am! and i will just say this right now that i love ina. i used her cookbooks while catering and her recipes are foolproof.

    karin - i do a lot of flying by the seat of my pants too. check out the fl at the library.

    jamilyn - i wish my mom taught me that but it was what thomas keller said about his mom. my mom didn't have a domestic bone in her body.

    linda - we actually tried to get reservations several times too but no luck either.

    leslie - i think the bungalow sparkels! esp w/new pepper.

    steve - i think i want a t shirt that says that. get that sucker dirty, would ya. moosehead is excellent too.

    tera - i shudder at what my sons would say they learned from me. i need the joy of vegan baking.

    joan - of course you have met her. did she cook for you too! that's 2 of my idols. ask dan again about jack white would you.

    kelley - i've heard he is intimidating in real life. i'd like to talk his ear off though.

  11. Hi Janet,

    I would have to say Ina Garten. I love her simple approach to cooking and entertaining. During our renovation I used the layout of her "barn kitchen" as my inspiration...on a much smaller scale, but the same look.

    Your post today is making me consider buying one of Thomas Keller's cookbooks. They are big and beautiful and it sounds like I have been missing out!


  12. I was lucky enough to eat there once. I was in California with my then husband, my best friend ( now deceased) and his partner. The food was delicious and we laughed and laughed. Wonderful memory. Thank you.

    I flip through so many cookbooks. Most used in the past:Julia's Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, most used in the summer: The River Cafe Cookbook, most used now: recipes I find on blogs.

    xo Jane

  13. Janet, maybe the 'favourite cookbook' isn't one that you cook from. My favourite is Nigella, it doesn't matter which book. I adore her conversational writing and, even though she sounds like upper class plum, she talks about making 'supper for her children' and hiding in the pantry eating crappy chocolate. She specifically said she had a stash of low-style commercial chocolate for days when she wasn't in the mood for high cocoa. I think that says a lot about her (in a good way). Some chefs take themselves very seriously. And she readily admits she isn't a chef actually, just a cook. She's quite mesmerising to watch on her programmes too.

  14. I actually collect cookbooks, and devour them like novels. Some of my favorites are actually Junior League cookbooks. I love regional recipes; so many have been passed down through the families. I will also have to post a vote for Ina. You just gotta love Ina!

  15. My favorite is the Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics cookbook. As a southern girl living on the west coast, I love having a huge cookbook full of all my favorite southern recipes:)

    I LOVE French cooking, though so I will have to check out your recommendation.

  16. annie - i want to see your kitchen. ina's is gorgeous. i highly recommend it for its visuals.

    jane - oh you lucky girl. i'm jealous.

    fiona - i'm w/you on nigella. she is such a goddess and i love listening to her and watching her prepare food. she is so earthy.

    bonnie - i thought i was the only one that read cookbooks like novels. i truly get lost in them.

    marygrace - why doesn't this surpise me? i don't think anyone does southern quite like paula. if i were you i'd check it out at the library and see what you think.

  17. Dear Janet, The book looks elegant in your pantry. My two favorites are The Silver Palate cookbook and James Beard American Cookery. Love to read the stories and in American Cookery, James gives you the history of the dish. Hugs, Joyce

  18. I must buy this book. The few times I have tried to get reservations was during our economic hey day. Needless to say I hung up before making a reservation. For a tenth of the cost, I can savor the man behind the restaurant! Thank you. Great Holiday gifting.

  19. Dear Janet, This cookbook does indeed sound to be very interesting and looks to be very stylishly designed. I should love to visit the restaurant as I am sure that I have heard of it before....spoken of in hushed tones, of course.

    As for me and cookbooks...they sit on the shelf in the pantry but I have no idea what is there and even less idea what is inside them!

  20. Keller!!! Gotta love him. I "minimalized" his famous ratatouille recipe (the one from the film)and it is vegan:

    Love Barefoot Contessa, and I've well-worn 30+ yr old copies of Fannie Farmer and Fast Vegetarian Feasts by Martha Rose Schulmann.

    In our role as cooks, the soul of cooking and food has to come from inside ourselves, which in turn enables others to savor "food, glorious food!"

  21. Janet,
    I would love to read through it...I do have quite a collection of cookbooks but like Steve, I tend to go to the internet first. But cookbooks provide so much more inspiration with their added personal touches.


kindness is never out of style.

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