The hottest trend in fine dining these days has nothing to do with food at all; it’s all about exclusive hotels.
The most recent headline came earlier this month when chef Thomas Keller told WSJ Magazine that he plans to open a small hotel at the French Laundry, his signature restaurant that has earned three Michelin stars and is about to complete a $10-million renovation and expansion.
Before you start fantasizing about 400-thread-count sheets and toilets that flush automatically, Keller’s “announcement” wasn’t much more than a fleeting comment at the end of a long (and wonderful) piece. The story offered no specifics, no timelines, and no details, and neither Keller nor his publicists are adding any more.
Thankfully, however, the article in the Wall Street Journal did say that Keller’s team has purchased a small inn next to The French Laundry property in Yountville and noted that Keller said he would be building his hotel on that site “soon.”
The piece went on to quote the iconic chef as saying, “It’s just a natural extension for the restaurant to have rooms available.” Other articles, such as this one in Eater SF, republished the same quote.
Keller certainly wouldn’t be the first in California wine country to pair a great restaurant with a small hotel or inn. As we reported in December, chef Kyle Connaughton and his wife, Katina, opened Single Thread, a fine-dining restaurant in Healdsburg, with a five-room inn upstairs. Before that, another Healdsburg restaurant, the now-defunct Cyrus, sat beneath a handful of uber-deluxe rooms at Les Mars Hotel.
There are other great restaurant/hotel blends on the horizon. This spring, for instance, Las Alcobas Napa Valley will open around Acacia House, the highly anticipated new restaurant from chef Chris Cosentino.
As for Keller’s place, we certainly hope guests awaken each morning to fresh croissants and pastries from Bouchon Bakery down the street. Even under the French Laundry moniker, there’s really no better way to start a day.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.