Is Per Se Recession-Proof?

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Photo: WireImage

In Part One of our conversation with Thomas Keller, we talked to the chef about the Bocuse d'Or. In Part Two, we discuss how the economy affects fine dining; where Keller eats in New York; and what he's reading these days.

Your first New York restaurant, Rakel, suffered from the stock-market crash of 1987. What concerns do you have about your restaurants today?
We really had two crazy years because the economy was booming and ‘87 came along. It was one of the restaurants that got it first because it wasn’t a mainstream restaurant. Right now, we see a lot of guests who are coming from other parts of the world, whether England or France or Germany or Japan or Australia. Many of them pay for meals in Euros. But I understand that their economies are starting to hurt as well.

Will you make any changes to your menus to adjust costs?
Guests that come to Per Se are guests from around the world and guests who have very, very high expectations. And for us to try to reduce our costs, we’d have to lose the quality of our products. That would be a move that would be difficult to overcome. I don’t think we ever want to reduce the quality of the experience at our restaurants because of the expectations that our guests have already come to know.

Have you read Phoebe Damroch’s book, Service Included?
No. I have a copy. I have a lot of books sitting on my desk that I want to read. That’s one of them. Unfortunately, I don’t get a chance to read as much as I’d like to, so I try to read books that are really interesting. I love biographies. I’m in the middle of Team of Rivals right now. I’ll read it one day.

Where have you eaten lately in New York?
I don’t get out to eat when I’m in New York. I’m basically at work a lot. I really want to go to John Fraser’s Dovetail. I had a quick meal at Bar Boulud, really enjoyed that. I’m looking forward to getting back over to Daniel because of the renovations, the dining room over there, to see what that looks like. Le Cirque. I’ve eaten there a couple of times. Each time it just gets better and better.

Earlier: Thomas Keller Wants To Be ‘Taken Seriously By the World.’