NCGA Golf

FALL 2017

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pers like Keller garner TV time and swing with hundreds lining the gallery ropes. On the 16th hole, Keller's tee shot struck a spectator. When Keller arrived on the scene to see what happened, he was shaken like a dry martini. Peter Ueberroth reassured Keller, telling him that his personal physician had been called. "So soothing," Keller said of the elder Ueberroth. "But that's when you realize your worst moment on a golf course is hurting someone." His best moments come in the com- pany of fellow culinary wizards at such iconic golf outposts as Bandon Dunes in Oregon and Old Head in Ireland. Keller said he would like to explore South Carolina's courses near Charleston. But his home course is Silverado, and he credits Johnny Miller for bringing the PGA Tour back to the venerable North course in 2014. "I feel lucky to know him," Keller said. "It's not who you know, it's who knows you. If you walk into a room and you say you know Johnny Miller, he better walk up to you and say, 'Hi,' or otherwise you don't know Johnny Miller." When the Tour comes to town and Miller plays host at the Safeway Open, Keller holds cooking demonstrations that enable fans to sample French Laundry fare such as his $20 lobster roll without making a reservation six months in advance. For some, it's every bit of a draw as the golf itself, and shows off the Napa Valley's connoisseur lifestyle, of which Keller makes sound so matter-of-fact. "Cooking is really simple," Keller said. "People over-analyze it or get intimidated by the processes. It doesn't require a lot of athletic skills or a lot of dexterity or stamina. It does require focus." In an epicurean context, Keller is the Stag's Leap Cellars 1973 cabernet sauvi- gnon. In the 1976 Judgment of Paris, a prestigious tasting in which French judges weighed the top 10 French and California wines, that Stag's Leap vintage won first place over the likes of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Mon- trose—the long-held standards of world- class wine. The stunning upset validated California wines on a global stage. Likewise, The French Laundry's ranking as the best restaurant in the world inspired American chefs and their approach to menus, said Tim Ryan, pres- ident of the Culinary Institute of America, who introduced Keller before the auction as the most influential chef in America. Keller's "plant-forward" menus fea- ture the freshest ingredients simply, but innovatively rendered. That approach to food, Ryan observed, is carried over to the CIA's program that teaches physi- cians how to advise patients the right way to eat and what to eat—all to help combat America's obesity issues. Keller, a CIA Trustee, acknowledged Ryan's compliment, but there was a pushback. "It's hard to be recognized as influential when you know you still have a lot of work to do to make it what you know you can," Keller said. "It's not about perfection. Once you think it's perfect, you realize it's not so perfect. It's about striving for perfection." Keller's greatest impact on all things culinary might not be restaurants. He takes particular pride in the chefs who have worked with him and gone on to their own successful ventures, including the aforementioned Yamaguchi, as well as Grant Achatz, Corey Lee and René Redzepi. "Training goes on for their entire career," Keller said of those who come to work under his tutelage. "In the end, that person is better than you are. My young chefs, they're all better than I am. We gave them the opportunity, the training and the mentorship and they become better. If you're not thinking that the next gen- eration has to have more of what they need to execute than the previous gener- ation, then you're selfish. It's all about nurturing, all about giving." Which brings us back to the practice range at Silverado. Like Keller's work in the kitchen, he's constantly striving to improve. "I love hitting short shots, like how far to hit my gap wedge. Is that a perfect 75 yards?" Keller said. "But put me in a bunker—there are days (golf) seems so easy and some days it seems impossible. It will eliminate your ego fast." 40 FALL 2017 | NCGA.ORG

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