I had just read another of Maria Popova’s fabulous Brain Pickings blog posts – this one on How To Find Meaningful Work or, as she says, “The art-science of allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold,” when I saw this video of Thomas Keller addressing a packed auditorium of Stanford Business School students about how he attributes the lessons he learned as a dishwasher to his success.
Keller’s mother managed several restaurants and, as a young boy he spent a lot of hours in those restaurants, beginning as a dishwasher. He says that early experience was formative because, as a dishwasher, he needed to be:
1. Organized, efficient, attentive to detail. How he loaded the machine counted as much as how he unloaded it: the dishes, glasses and silverware had to be loaded a certain way to get them cleanest and unloaded efficiently. Feedback was instantaneous: things were either clean or not, and he could not afford for them not to be clean on his watch.
2. Part of a team: everyone relied on him to get their plates, glasses and silverware clean.
3. Aware of rituals: loading the washer, emptying it, or sweeping the floor – everything had to be done at a certain time. He equates this today to every aspect of a meal needing to be done at a certain time for the whole to come together.
4. Purposefully repetitive. He perfected his skills as a dishwasher by doing it over and over again, just as a chef perfects slicing onions by slicing them over and over again.
Today, Thomas Keller’s culinary empire includes four restaurants and a bakery, cookbooks, wines, a line with Williams Sonoma and now Cup4Cup – a Gluten free flour business. Keller is the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings by the Michelin Guide.
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group is made up of a family of restaurants that range from the gastronomic experiences of The French Laundry, which actually was a French Steam Laundry dating back to the 1920’s, in Yountville, California and Per Se in New York City to the more relaxed atmosphere of Bouchon Bistro, the family style dishes of Ad Hoc, and the exquisite sweets you’ll discover at Bouchon Bakery. Each are bound by Keller’s passion to nourish and to provide memorable experiences for every guest that visits.
To quantify these experiences specifically:
Gift Cards for French Laundry in Yountville, Ca or Per Se in New York City range from: Silver at $750-800; Gold at $1550; and Black at $2500 – thankfully each card is for two!
Ad Hoc, also in Yountville has gift cards from $58 per person.
Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, with added locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas, from $31 per person per gift.
I’d say, Keller definitely found what Popov describes as meaningful work by “allowing the petals of his identity to unfold!”