Chef: Captain Cook

Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in the Napa Valley doesn't have to try too hard to impress. He just cooks really, really well

Thomas Keller uses more quotation marks than a contract lawyer. His menu has "bacon and eggs," "chips and dip," "coffee and donuts" and even "macaroni and cheese." But this mac and cheese consists of orzo in coral oil with mascarpone topped with lobster and a parmesan chip. As intricate and deliberate as Keller's cooking is, he's desperate to ward off the gravitas. "Coming to a restaurant like this can be intimidating. And that's the last thing I want," he says. "I don't want people to come here afraid, like it's some kind of temple of gastronomy. It's just a restaurant. Coffee...

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