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25th June 2024

Craft Guild of Chefs interviews International Chef Award winner Thomas Keller

Written by: Edward Waddell
Craft Guild of Chefs national chairman Mark Reynolds and immediate past chairman Matt Owens interviewed International Chef Award winner Thomas Keller.

Thomas, the American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, has been selected as the recipient of the International Chef of the Year Award. This prestigious accolade, which is sponsored by Cunard, is only presented once every five years at the Craft Guild of Chefs Awards ceremony. The last time this award was presented was in 2018 to Alain Ducasse, on the 25th anniversary of the awards.

A number of senior Craft Guild of Chefs members including vice presidents David Mulcahy and Steve Munkley met with leading industry chefs Gary Jones, Henri Brosi, Gareth Bowen and Martyn Nail at the Dorchester Hotel to discuss who should win the International Chef of the Year Award this time around.

They deliberated over a number of great names in the culinary world, but once the name of Thomas Keller was mentioned there was unanimous concurrence that the right chef had been identified.

They said that his support and development of chefs, not only in the US but across the globe, reflected the Craft Guild of Chefs ethos of striving to develop young talent and inspire chefs to be the best they can be. For all his many achievements, they agreed, Thomas is not just a great chef, but he stands tall amongst the greatest ever.

During the interview Thomas discussed what he had been up to during his visit to the UK, the importance of mentoring chefs, his family’s influence on him, cooking to nurture people and he explains what he has planned for next in his career.

Speaking about the International Chef Award, Thomas said: “Any accolade that you receive is a special day. It recognises the work that you are doing and encourages you to do the work in the future. We always have to remember that we cannot rest on our laurels. Thank you very much I am very grateful, honoured and proud to be receiving this award from a group of professionals in another country.

“We also have to remember that all the awards we receive are for what we did yesterday and that is why it is so encouraging and reinforcing to the work that me and my team are doing. But we also have to consider, more importantly, what we are going to do tomorrow. Every single award defines another level of responsibility that you have. Whatever I do in the future is going to represent this award going forward.” 

He has several successful restaurants across America including The French Laundry (three Michelin stars), Per Se (three Michelin stars), Surf Club (one Michelin star), Bouchon in California, Bouchon Bakery, Ad Hoc, La Calenda and Bouchon in Las Vegas.

Thomas is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, as well as being the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France.

Thomas led a team from the United States to its first-ever gold medal in the Bocuse d’Or, a prestigious biannual competition that is regarded as the Olympics of the culinary world. With more than 1.5 million copies of his cookbooks in print, he is the author of six cookbooks, including The French Laundry, Per Se.

Speaking about his philosophy, Thomas added: “In the end, a great meal is not about the food and wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. We try to make it an extraordinary one by establishing a beautiful place, one filled with a staff that cares about it as they do about their home, where we treat one guest at a time.”

The full list of Craft Guild of Chefs winners can be viewed here.