A day in the kitchen at French Laundry

Sophie Brickman works a night in the kitchen of French Laundry and writes about her experience.


Reservationists Google all customers who make a reservation, which is why you might get a candle in your dessert even if you don't tell anyone it's your birthday, or a glass of Champagne to celebrate that merger. Extras are all in an effort to keep a diner's experience as exciting as possible.

"Minimum" VIPs might be people who have visited many times - they receive a few extra courses in addition to the regular menu. Maximum VIPs, Hollingsworth said, "might be a chef coming in, or someone who is well regarded in their industry, someone we have a relationship with." If the kitchen has the time, these special guests get a completely off-the-menu menu, created that day especially for them. Julia Roberts had been in recently and stood in the kitchen waving at the television set to the cooks at Per Se, none of whom looked up. I asked Hollingsworth if she got an off-the-menu menu. "She was VIP, but not off the menu," he said, adding cryptically, "That was because of the party size."


I visited the kitchen of French Laundry after my one and only dinner there late last summer. We were among the last diners that night, and the kitchen was already nearly empty and immaculate, counters gleaming, everything put away, ready for the next day's endeavors.