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  • The French Laundry

    Where Chef Keller’s meditative choreography unfolds each night.

    To mark its 20th anniversary The French Laundry undertook an extensive renovation of the renowned restaurant’s historic property. The expanded kitchen, new annex building, and extended courtyard garden, the renovation signals an unwavering pursuit of the craft and service that have earned The French Laundry three Michelin stars.

    Working in with Snøhetta and Chef Thomas Keller, Envelope observed and analyzed the restaurant in action, to understand the culture and rhythm of its precision operation. This research informed not only every detail of the design but our approach to its implementation. As we learned more about The French Laundry’s business, our experience with interim uses and architectures led us to propose placing a temporary kitchen within the existing garden to significantly shorten the restaurant’s closure during construction, minimizing the economic impacts on the restaurant, its staff, and the local economy.
    The temporary kitchen exhibits our opportunistic approach towards interim uses, employing the speed and economy of modular components with customized elements to support specific programs. At the French Laundry, we recreated Chef Keller’s original kitchen within modular containers — preserving the functional configurations of the equipment and stations — and placed it within the existing garden. A thirty-foot-wide ribbon window establishes a moment of two-way communication between patrons and chefs, an idea carried through to the renovated kitchen.
    Every element of the new kitchen’s design works to amplify the efficiency and focus of Chef Keller’s esteemed operation. With 25 percent more space, the renovated kitchen unites the culinary team in one continuous space, providing an and meditative environment for culinary production at the highest level. The sweeping vault of the ceiling conceals mechanical equipment while integrating skylights and sound-dampening panels, creating a light-filled, hushed workspace. Supporting endeavors—including butchery, produce breakdown, and management—are housed in the annex along with a 14,000-bottle wine cellar.
    The courtyard garden, now double in size, underscores The French Laundry’s unmatched attention to the guest experience. From the gate, past the annex, around the kitchen, and to the restaurant’s iconic blue door, each threshold frames a moment of beauty and anticipation.