So, say you pick up Thomas Keller's new Ad Hoc cookbook, plan a dinner party for some friends, send an invite to Mr. Keller, on a lark, and the man actually shows up? That was the reality for Esquire's Ryan D'Agostino, who recounts his evening hosting and cooking with monsieur Keller in the mag's newest issue. D'Agostino's story is basically the food equivalent of Springsteen jumping on stage and joining your Bruce cover band for a marathon Born To Run tribute.
While nervous at first that Keller might turn his nose at the flop house of an apartment, or the cooking therein, D'Agostino's worries instantly vanish as soon as the man steps through the door. It begins:
"He's probably six foot four and pivots around the kitchen with a quick, fidgety grace. His hair is fingered straight back, and his head swivels atop a mantislike frame, eyes target-locked on the countertop and stove — he sees everything at once."
When Keller offers to lend a hand with dinner, D'Agostino can't help but marvel at the man's beastly kitchen skills:
"Keller's arm is an atom smasher. He's stirring the mashed potatoes with a wooden spoon, and I can barely see his arm, it's whorling so fast. The potatoes, which I thought were already done, have become something otherpotatoly. They're starting to look like pudding."
After Keller, always the encouraging, yet disciplined teacher, shows Ryan a few kitchen tricks (including how not to handle a scallop like a little girl), he feels instantly transformed into a better chef. But what's it like to share a meal with the man?
"During the meal he toasts both me and his restaurants. He tells stories, including one about the first time he killed a rabbit with his bare hands. When the playlist stops at one point, he calls to me, 'Chef! Music.'"
While D'Agostino is clearly transfixed by the experience, how does Keller enjoy it?
"He tells me no one has ever invited him for dinner and cooked from one of his books. He stays for four hours."
And another chapter is written in the Myth of Keller... [Esquire]