It’s taken chef Thomas Keller two-and-a-half years to bring a restaurant to his native Southern California. Now that his bistro-inspired Bouchon is opening in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, expect him to be logging more cross-country miles.
“I hope one day I’ll fly my own private plane,” Keller says, hoping to make travel easier between his projects in San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas. “Quite a few of my friends who pilot planes say you have to be focused and pay attention, which, as a chef, I’m pretty good at.”
Focused may be an understatement. Between presiding over The French Laundry, Ad Hoc and the original Bouchon in Yountville, Calif.; Per Se in New York, and another Bouchon in Las Vegas, as well as promoting his fourth cookbook, “Ad Hoc at Home,” Keller has become adept at brand management.
“Certainly 25 years ago I didn’t think I would own a restaurant. I had two failed restaurants before The French Laundry,” says Keller.
In the case of his latest endeavor, Keller is aware he’s not the first to bring Los Angeles a high-quality bistro — he praises David Myers’ Comme Ca, Alain Giraud’s Anisette and Walter Manzke’s Church and State, among others. Nor is he ignorant of the current economic climate, which has affected his New York and Las Vegas businesses. But French Laundry continues to boast a months-long waiting list for reservations and Keller remains optimistic the right mix will seduce diners.
At the Beverly Hills Bouchon, that mix includes classic dishes such as roast chicken, leg of lamb, mussels and the signature “grand plateau” two-tiered raw bar tower. Wines will be made specially for the restaurant by Southern California vintners.
The two-story, indoor-outdoor eatery is just the latest addition to a business Keller likens to a sports franchise. And keeping Team Keller on top of its culinary game means scouting young talents and mentoring them through the ranks. After all, the job of chef is much like that of an athlete. “After a while, you get worn out, so you go from franchise player to coach,” he says.
Bouchon, 235 North Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills; 310-271-9910.
Bouchon Mussels with Saffron and Mustard
12 tbs. (6 oz.) unsalted butter
½ minced shallot
24 cloves garlic confit
1 tbs. plus 1 tsp. minced thyme
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground white pepper
¼ c. Dijon mustard
2 c. dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
4 pinches saffron threads
4 lbs. mussels, preferably bouchot
¼ c. plus 2 tbs. minced Italian parsley
freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, thymes, salt and white pepper; reduce the heat to low, and cook gently for one to two minutes, or until fragrant. Add the mustard and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minute or two, then add saffron, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let the broth steep for at least five minutes. (The broth can be allowed to sit for a few hours at room temperature.)
Rinse the mussels under cold water; scrub them if necessary to clean them. Pull off and discard the beards.
Bring the broth to a simmer over high heat. Add the mussels and stir to combine. Cover and cook for about two minutes, or until the mussels have opened.
Toss the mussels with the parsley and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately in large shallow bowls, with some crusty bread.