No, Thomas Keller does not run Per Se and did not write the Bouchon cookbook. Next question.
Keller spoke in San Francisco last Thursday at the Commonwealth Club, fielding a variety of questions from the audience and moderator Tara Duggan from the Chronicle.
The topic of celebrity chefs came up, and Keller said he basically has five restaurants to provide opportunities to his staff. In the way of explaining how great his staff is at running things, he put some significant distance between himself and some of his projects:
[Bouchon founding chef Jeffrey Cerciello] wrote an extraordinary book -- that's his book. I know my name is on the cover -- that's a publishing house thing.
[At Per Se,] I wanted to make sure our developers who built the buildings really understood what a commitment building a restaurant was. I say that as someone who is somewhat detached from it because it is a Jonathan Benno restaurant.
It's not breaking news that celebrity chefs are not heavily involved in each of the several restaurants they typically run, and Cerciello was mentioned in the cover flap for Bouchon cookbook. But it was interesting to hear Keller really emphasizing the point, because it swims against the marketing that emphasizes Keller's role in the restaurant and book.
By the way, there didn't seem to be any question that Keller is still firmly in control at the flagship restaurant, the French Laundry in Yountville, and he was clear about his intense involvement in the French Laundry Coobook, published in 1999.
Keller also talked about the prices at his restaurant, molecular gastronomy and French Laundry's recent purchase of a ... well, of a laundry. The whole thing is supposed to air on KQED at some point.
More in my Business Times update: French Laundry chef talks about celebrity life (free link)
This event was also blogged by Laura Froelich, who has some additional quotes.