Thomas Keller, among America's most revered chefs, put to bed nearly a decade of speculation and dreams yesterday when he announced via the Miami Herald plans to open a yet-to-be-named restaurant in partnership with Surfside's Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club in early 2018.
What that restaurant will look like, however, remains anybody's guess. Keller swore up and down it wouldn't be a personality-driven, white-tablecloth project akin to his French Laundry in Napa Valley or Per Se in New York City's Time Warner Center. The latter garnered one of the most-read reviews of 2016, in which New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells declared "a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water."
Instead, Keller's latest project seems to be more in line with his fleet of Bouchon Bistros across the nation that ply elegant pastries and simple, precisely executed French fare.
In the Herald, Keller talks more about his inspiration for the project rather than what it will offer. The place will join the Surfside dining fray alongside Stephen Starr's Makoto and Le Zoo inside Bal Harbour Shops, Josh Marcus' beloved not-so-Jewish Josh's Deli, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's nearby J&G Grill.
“It’s going to be a tip of the hat to a time when America was the most optimistic, when the appeal in America, the pride in America, was at its peak,” Keller said. “The glamor, the celebration, that’s the kind of restaurant this will be.”
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He signed onto the project a year and a half ago after the hotel's new owner, Nadim Ashi, regaled Keller with the property's storied past when it served as a hideaway for the Rat Pack, Winston Churchill, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams.
Keller said it'll be a place for celebration, but that's still vague. If his celebrity inspiration is any hint, keep your fingers crossed for lobster thermidor, shrimp cocktails, and plenty of once again en vogue crudités.
Of course, what would be even better is if Keller's Miami kitchen, along with the forthcoming openings of Vongerichten's and Joël Robuchon's restaurants in the Design District, helps turn out a new crop of chefs who themselves will go on to greatness.