With seven Michelin stars between three world-renowned restaurants, Thomas Keller currently stands as the most decorated chef in America. Driven by a relentless pursuit of perfection, his distinctive style – combining French tradition with American creativity – has revolutionized the realm of fine dining, elevating the standards of an entire industry.
Born in Southern California in 1955, Keller was hired as a dishwasher at a yacht club as a teen, working his way up to cook and eventually apprenticing under the tutelage of French-born Master Chef Roland Henin. In 1994 he opened The French Laundry, a landmark Napa Valley restaurant that consistently boasts three Michelin stars and has been hailed as one of the world’s premier dining destinations.
Keller has since expanded his culinary empire to include New York’s Per Se, Las Vegas’ Bouchon, and Miami’s The Surf Club – each a testament to his passion for innovation and precision in the kitchen. He’s also penned a string of bestselling cookbooks, starting with 1999’s groundbreaking The French Laundry Cookbook, and brought his expertise to a broader audience in his MasterClass on cooking techniques.
In a reading list for NY-based bookstore One Grand, Keller shared 10 books that have most impacted his life and craft. From French gastronomy to group dynamics to inner-city architecture, dive into his recommendations below, and check out the bookshelves of other celebrated chefs here.
Thomas Keller’s Reading List
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
“I’ve never looked at a spider web the same since reading this during my formative years. The tender friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur has remained with me and it serves as an important lesson about loss and learning to let go.” -TK
The Match by Mark Frost
“It’s no secret that I love the game of golf. This is the story of an epic golf match held on one of the world’s most fabled courses. But as much as it is a riveting account of a competition, it is also a probing work of history and sociology that uses golf as a window into a distinctive place and time.” -TK
“Truly near and dear to my heart. My first cookbook serves almost as a yearbook, taking me back to a specific place and time. As we get ready to celebrate our 25th anniversary at The French Laundry, the stories and memories of making that book are as vivid as ever. The book speaks to evolution as well, important for chefs not only in terms of how dishes can take new shapes and perspective, but also in terms of ingredients and technique.” -TK
“Takes me back to my high school years when I was becoming more aware of group dynamics and trying to figure out where I belong. Its commentary on society at large is relevant today.” -TK
Ma Gastronomie by Fernand Point
“I cite this book as the cookbook that most influenced me as a young cook. First published in the United States in 1974, but long out of print, Fernand Point’s page-turner cookbook was republished in 2008, and I was honored to contribute a foreword to that edition. The book is half recipes, half stories, and the stories about Point himself are remarkable and beautifully told. I recall the day I learned about this book very clearly. I was working at the Dunes Club in Narragansett, Rhode Island when my mentor Roland Henin loaned me his copy. He said it was a special book—his favorite. I found it extraordinary. I took it everywhere with me for two years throughout France and read it whenever I had a moment to spare.” -TK
“I’ve watched and re-watched Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk and find his perspective inspiring. With the opening of The Surf Club Restaurant, La Calenda and soon TAK Room, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can improve in my leadership role during a time of growth and change. Finding fulfillment in work is important for me and my team. Sinerk’s insight are endlessly illuminating.” -TK
My Life in France by Julia Child
“Julia Child wrote, ‘One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.’ Learning from our mistakes is one of the most important things we do, in and out of the kitchen. I’ve made many along the way and it’s an important reminder that we can accept them and treat them as an opportunity to grow.” -TK
Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller
“I love biographies and this one is particularly captivating as it is told in Truman’s own words. Truman was a complex man serving at a challenging time in our history. This book brings the man and his historical moment to vivid life.” -TK
The High Line: Foreseen, Unforeseen by James Corner Field Operations and Diller & Scofidio & Renfro
“I am very interested in how design and planning shapes cities and am always curious about the roots of transformation. Having spent much of my early career in New York where parts of the city were in disarray, I was captivated by the book, in awe of the community and New Yorker spirit which taught me so much about how a unique corner of Manhattan came to be.” -TK
A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price
“My mother gave me this book when I was a teenager keen on following in the footsteps of my chef brother, Joseph. It is a leather-bound book with gold-embossment on the cover, the photography is magnificent and mouth-watering, and it’s full of great stories and classic recipes from around the world. It’s mandatory reading for our culinary team at TAK Room.” -TK
(via One Grand Books; photo by Deborah Jones)
Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Thomas Keller’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop page.