The three-star chef Thomas Keller in his new kitchen. The innovative "pass tables" in the foreground are used to hand over the meals to the service team.

A kitchen atelier for the French Laundry

Snøhetta's architects have added a new kitchen wing to the three-star restaurant " The French Laundry" in California.
by Fabian Peters | 2/27/2018

The architects of Snøhetta have designed rooms for "The French Laundry" - Thomas Keller's famous three-star restaurant in Napa Valley, California. This is in itself only moderately surprising, as the Norwegians have just designed the guest room of the "Barr" in Copenhagen, successor of the epochal "Noma". It is really unusual that the star architects were hired here to build a new kitchen wing. Since 1994,"The French Laundry" has been based in Yountville in a more than 100-year-old house, which historically also represented the eponymous laundry. Snøhetta have now extended the old house with a kitchen building and a long building block with further adjoining rooms, including the restaurant's  own butcher's shop and a wine cellar with 15,000 bottles.

View to the famous blue entrance door of the "French Laundry" through a window cutout in the new garden wall.

Of course, the designers have taken a lot of time to get to know the processes and to adapt the new kitchen optimally to them. However, the architecture of the room demonstrates that it wants to be more than just a functional cooking workshop - it is a studio for culinary art. The most important factor in this impression is the curved ceiling, which is supposed to be reminiscent of a tablecloth. At the same time, this design should contribute to good acoustics in the room.  At the same time, a skylight fitted into the wave shape illuminates the kitchen. Directly below a zone with so-called "pass tables" has been set up, where the food is handed over to the service by the chefs. This zone is intended to be a kind of "calm area" away from the hectic kitchen, where Thomas Keller can discuss with his team. 

The curved ceiling of the kitchen has a skylight that illuminates the room.
The new rotisserie in the kitchen

So a lot of creative effort - and the guest doesn't see any of it? By no means! At the same time, Snøhetta has redesigned the outside areas of the French Laundry, giving access to the restaurant. The guest now walks through a small gate in a garden wall and enters a garden courtyard. Here, the paved path leads him directly to the new kitchen building, which he has to circumnavigate. Along its way around the house, the kitchen is opened with windows so that the guest can watch the chefs work until he reaches the threshold of the restaurant. Together with the garden, the new kitchen is nothing other than the actual reception room of the "French Laundry" - and a stage for Thomas Keller's art. 

Snøhetta also redesigned the restaurant's exterior. A basalt wall now shields the garden from the access road.
The path from entrance gate to the restaurant door leads directly towards the new kitchen building.
The kitchen building is partly covered with a curtain wall of patterned glass.
While circumnavigate the kitchen building, the guest can observe what is going on inside through the windows.
The spacious garden of the "French Laundry" is also used for events.