Two weeks ago, Pete Wells delivered a sharp, swift blow to Thomas Keller and his crew at Per Se by demoting the restaurant from four stars down to two. The review inspired numerous think pieces about the state of ultra-luxe dining, and whether or not Per Se is still a relevant restaurant in 2016. Keller kept quiet after the bomb dropped, but at some point, he would have to acknowledge the review. Would he fire and replace his executive chef, like Le Cirque did after it two-star demotion in 2012? Would he announce drastic changes to the menu and service style? Or would he brush off the review and do nothing at all?
Last night, Keller officially responded to the review in a statement that acknowledges the restaurant's shortcomings and the importance of the assessment, while making vague promises to change Per Se. It reads a bit like a corporate memo. Keller does not list any action points, just a promise to "work even harder." Here's the full memo:
At all of our restaurants, in our kitchens and dining rooms, we make every effort to provide you with the best possible experience. We consider it our professional responsibility to ensure that every one of you feels special and cared for. To us, it is imperative that we improve and evolve every day. We constantly examine ourselves, our menu, our service and our standards.
Regretfully, there are times when we do not meet those standards. The fact that The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells’ dining experiences at Per Se did not live up to his expectations and to ours is greatly disappointing to me and to my team. We pride ourselves on maintaining the highest standards, but we make mistakes along the way. We are sorry we let you down.
We are not content resting on what we did yesterday. We believe we can do better for ourselves, our profession and most importantly our guests. We have the opportunity, the tools, the self-motivation and the dedication to do so.
When we fall short, we work even harder. We are confident that the next time you visit Per Se or any of our other restaurants, our team will deliver a most memorable experience.
The timing of this missive is a bit unusual. When Daniel got knocked down a peg, Boulud responded with grace and humor on Twitter about 24 hours after the review. Keller waited two weeks. Is it possible that he was allowing himself time to see if reservations would drop because of the review? If that's the case, this memo reads like a reaction to a just small dent in the bookings — no major overhaul necessary.
Although Per Se is a destination restaurant, a lot of its core clientele is comprised of ultra-wealthy regulars and international Michelin star-chasers who probably don't care about reviews like this. If Per Se loses one of its Michelin stars — like Daniel did after its Times demotion — there might be some bigger changes in the kitchen and dining room at Per Se.
If you have any thoughts on Keller's note or predictions for Per Se's future, please drop them in the comments.