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Thomas Keller on Per Se Demotion: 'We Were a Little Bit Too Arrogant'

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Keller is ready to let the healing begin

A spacious fine dining restaurant
[The dining room at Per Se]
[Daniel Krieger]

Disgraced fine dining sorcerer Thomas Keller finally responds to the two star review read ‘round the world. While reflecting on Pete Wells’s assessment from January, the chef tells Town & Country: "Maybe we were complacent....I learned that, maybe, as a team we were a little bit too arrogant, our egos too exposed." Even though Pete Wells often dines without disguises, Per Se’s staff never spotted him during any of his meals. Keller remarks: "I told them, 'How can you miss a diner who comes in multiple times, even if they're not a critic?...Somebody should catch that, because it's our job to track what people like if they come in more than one time. You have to make a connection." In the New Yorker’s recent profile of Pete Wells, the critic’s frequent dining companion Jeff Gordinier emphasized the importance of spotting the critic: "If they don’t recognize who he is, then they are missing a very important detail, and therefore they may not be paying attention to other important details."

Apart from a written promise to improve the dining experience, which was posted on the Per Se website, Keller has avoided addressing the review in public. After it went up, the chef met with each of his teams on both sides of the country to discuss its impact. Instead of announcing menu or service overhauls, the chef stressed the importance of focusing on one guest at a time. Keller notes: "We make mistakes all the time....And a mistake is a missed opportunity. We don't have to totally rethink what we are doing, because we believe in what we do."

In addition to overhauling the kitchen at The French Laundry, Keller is currently working with the Hudson Yards team to bring restaurants to the mega-project, and he will open an as-yet-unnamed establishment as part of that development as well. Keller is currently drawing inspiration for that restaurant from musicians he loved in his youth. The chef/restaurateur tells Town & Country: "Think of Sinatra, Sammy Davis, the Beatles, the crooners, the big bands....Think of the Carlyle. Who is the next Bobby Short?"

Per Se

10 Columbus Circle, Manhattan, NY 10023 (212) 823-9335 Visit Website

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