Chef Thomas Keller’s three-star Michelin-rated The French Laundry Restaurant at 6540 Washington St. in Yountville was extensively remodeled throughout with emphasis on its 3,000-square-foot kitchen, a 2,500-square-foot annex addition, and upgrades to administrative spaces.
The project included building a 6,000 square foot temporary kitchen, located adjacent to the project, to keep the food preparation area operational during construction.
The annex includes a new wine cellar with capacity for 15,000 selections, along with a prep kitchen, butchery, boardroom and locker room.
The renovation began three years ago and was finished Feb. 18, with the preparation of its first dinner service in the new kitchen.
In addition to interior amenities, an underground geothermal system was installed that uses a heat pump to transfer and distribute warm or cold air through the kitchen. This unique system circulates water from pipes buried in the earth as a heat source in winter or as a heat sink in summer. Some 18 bores, 420 feet deep, were drilled to reach 12 existing wells. The French Laundry uses a solar system designed and developed by NRG Energy.
The French Laundry partnered with Halton for its ventilated ceiling system and Cosentino for its Dekton surfacing including walls, countertops and workstations. Emphasis was placed on recycling stone on the property to create site walls. Some 9,000 square feet of landscaping and trees were also preserved for other sites, such as in the French Laundry Culinary Garden.
The ceiling of the finished restaurant was designed to resemble a flowing tablecloth. Smaller, efficient coolers replaced walk-in refrigerators, and kitchen workstations were elevated so staff will not have to bend down when preparing food. The kitchen, lined with windows so guests can see in, utilizes natural light along with enhanced acoustics for better team member communications.
“It’s all about having better functionality and efficiency,” said General Manager Michael Minnillo in a San Francisco Chronicle interview. “We’re in our 23rd year and The French Laundry’s team is still the same group that wants to drive this profession. Everything from the spacing of work stations to the height of cabinets plays a role.”
The French Laundry
Owner/developer: The French Laundry Partners, LP
Contractor: Wright Contracting
Architect: Envelope Architecture + Design
Designer: Snohetta Architecture and Thomas Keller
Cost: $10 million
Financing: Internal cash flow and First Republic Bank