Thomas Keller sold out six months in advance for the $835 (11-course) dinner
U.S.-based chef Thomas Keller is in Hong Kong this week to prepare six dinners over four days. The 415 seats were all snapped up six months in advance for the $835, 11-course dinner, which takes place at the Mandarin Grill inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hong Kong.
It’s the first time Mr. Keller, who owns eight restaurants and two bakeries in the U.S., has cooked in Hong Kong. (The chef has cooked in Bangkok and Singapore.)
“This is the only event I’ve ever done outside of the U.S. where I could bring my own ingredients,” he says. “Cooking is a very simple equation — it’s about ingredients and execution.”
We talked to Mr. Keller this week and asked him to break down the numbers behind his visit.
7.5: The number of months the Keller team spent planning the event. Key to the visit: menu development, integration of different team members and travel logistics.
8: The number of people in Mr. Keller’s entourage brought over from his U.S. restaurants. The team consists of three sous chefs, a maître d’, two pastry chefs, a chef de partie and a communications associate. (Previous visiting chefs at the Mandarin Oriental have either come alone or brought one assistant.)
4: The number of places Mr. Keller’s team came from: Napa Valley, New York, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills.
13: The number of suppliers from the U.S. whose ingredients are featured in each meal. Some of the highlights: Soyoung Scanlan’s cheese (exclusive just for this event) from Petaluma, Calif.; Diane St. Claire’s hand-churned raw milk butter from Orwell, Vt.; Don and Sally Schmitt’s apples from Philo, Calif.; Mast Brothers’ Chocolate from Brooklyn, N.Y.; John Mood’s peach palms from Haleiwa, Hawaii; Snake River Farms’ beef from Boise, Idaho; and sunchokes and radishes from Mr. Keller’s own garden at French Laundry.
9: The number of wines selected to pair with the meal, featuring some bottles from near Mr. Keller’s California location, such as the 2007 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir from Sonoma and 2007 Kongsgaard Chardonnay from Napa Valley.
4: The average number of hours of sleep the team got on their first night.
2: The number of times Mr. Keller has been to Hong Kong; the first was with his father three years ago. This marks the first time in Asia for the rest of his team. “I try to do an event like this once a year and go international with my team to reward young culinarians and bring them together,” he says.
80: The percentage of each batch of Mr. Keller’s signature cornets (savory tiles) deemed worthy of being served to guests as an amuse-bouche (the others are rejected because they don’t look right or get burnt in the making.) “This is a technique that requires a lot of labor and finesse, and asbestos fingertips,” says Mr. Keller.
Mr. Keller’s final word on price, value, and cooking? The chef recounts a tale to illustrate his approach: “When I first came to New York in the ’80s, there was a famous baker called Bonté. One year, the price of butter skyrocketed, and the New York Times did an article asking all the bakeries what they were doing in response to that. Some increased prices. Some got different brand butter substitutes. But Mr. Bonté said he wasn’t going to change anything — just make his croissants a little smaller…and that was the right answer.”
Have a look at the video: http://online.wsj.com