If you read the previous post you might be wanting to ask me, "Hey Brian, why were you in the suburbs? There is nothing good out there (except the wine bar that you rave about)." Well, that is a great and accurate question. However, this is a special situation fraught with extenuating circumstances because Thomas Keller, the chef of my favorite restaurant on the planet, The French Laundry, was doing a book signing at the William Sonoma in Oakbrook. Of course I had to go. The book signing was at 6p.m., and I managed to resist the urge to camp out in front of the store overnight like some crazy person. I ended up getting in line around 5p.m. and talking/ranting like rock band groupies with a bunch of the people around me. Like the true superstar that he is, Chef Keller was about twenty-five minutes late. I somehow scoped him when he was like 500 feet away from William Sonoma. I'm pretty sure I got a bonus point in his book for being the first person to be aware of his presence.
After waiting for about fifteen minutes from the start of the signing, I was on deck. I had no idea what to say, but I knew that I didn't want to come off as a raving lunatic who could do nothing but gush about his restaurant. I also thought about telling him how much I enjoyed In-n-Out burger (since he loves that place too), but I felt that would be stupid. Rather than think about it further, I figured it would come to me in a moment of revelation.
It was my turn to get my book signed, so I walked up there with my book all ready to go, but with nothing to say. Suddenly, and without warning, I invited him out to the wine bar in Elmhurst when he was done signing books. I fully expected him to politely decline immediately or perhaps just plainly say no (after all, many chefs aren't known for their patience). However, after my inquiry into his plans later, he responded in a way that I least expected. He asked me what time and where. I was completely taken by shock by his response and it took me at least five seconds to gather my thoughts and respond. Five seconds may not seem like that long, but if you are staring at a person expecting an answer, it feels like an eternity. Eventually, I spit the answer out of my mouth, and he said that he and Grant Achatz (from Alinea) were going out for tacos. Tacos?!?! The two best chefs in America are going out in Chicago for tacos? I briefly thought about asking if I could come along with him before figuring that he would probably try to get a restraining order against me. I also thought about trying to cut off a lock of his hair to take with me, but the threat of a restraining order preventing me from eating at French Laundry weighed too heavily on my mind (just kidding Thomas...don't think I'm crazy).
Anyway, here are a couple pictures of me with Chef Keller. The first one looks like im lunging at him, which may not be entirely inaccurate.