Answers from Our Experts (1)
Renowned American chef Thomas Keller owns and operates Per Se. Known initially for his other Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star restaurant in Napa Valley, California, The French Laundry, Keller often receives praise as one the best chefs in the world.
Unlike most chefs in the Five-Star world, Keller didn't attend culinary school; instead he worked as an apprentice to master chefs in the United States and France. Keller worked at New York's La Reserve and Paris' Guy Savoy and Taillevent before opening his first restaurant, Rakel, in New York in 1986. What happened next is what American dreams are made of: When that restaurant faltered, he packed up and moved to Northern California, eventually buying The French Laundry in 1994. The rest, as they say, is history. The restaurant earned massive accolades for its complex food, artful presentations and steadfast commitment to seasonal and fresh ingredients. It quickly become something of a mecca for foodies everywhere, in part because the haute cuisine and rustic setting were somewhat at odds, making the mini-portioned, multi-course tasting feel more leisurely. Keller returned to New York to open his luxury restaurant Per Se in 2004; an opening that was, needless to say, much anticipated. The New York restaurant earned a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating its first year out, something that few restaurants have managed to accomplish in our 50-plus years of rating them. Keller now runs six restaurants and five bakeries, with locations in Beverly Hills and Las Vegas.
Per Se has gone on to earn a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating every year since opening in 2004, not to mention that Keller is the only chef to have two Five-Star restaurants. Though the person who handles the day-to-day operations is chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh, who took over when his predecessor Jonathan Benno left in 2010 to open up his own restaurant. It's been a seamless transition, probably because Kaimeh has been part of Per Se's team since it opened in 2004. He started out as chef de partie and climbed his way up. The Brooklyn native has also moonlighted in other top New York kitchens, including Gramercy Tavern, Daniel and Tocqueville Restaurant. He carries on Keller's tradition of turning out impeccable dishes.