Thomas Keller on Chores

Emelie took this in Europe, a land of classical beauty.

I have been reading "The Soul of a Chef" by Michael Ruhlman, a book which profiles three prominent chefs and their restaurants. As I was reading about Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame, I was struck by his description of what had driven him to such high standards in both his cooking and his restaurant. He says, "What makes a person strive to do his very best, some innate motivating gene? I don't know....in hindsight, I was very lucky to have been raised by my mother in such an ideal way as to allow me to understand the details of things. A lot of it is based on having to do certain chores around the house. You clean the bathroom, which was my job. There was a way to do it. Everything had to shine. Everything had to be just perfect. Her definition of perfect. Which became my definition of perfect. To this day no matter what I do, it's kind of based on cleaning the bathroom."
He smiled, then laughed and said, "That's kinda funny," and laughed some more.
He goes on to explain some more, "You don't create good habits all of a sudden. They were created somewhere in the beginning."
A meal in France.
This was very meaningful to me, because as a mom, although I have emphasized good basic habits I have often in the name of love, or perhaps personal laziness, allowed my children to slide by in their chores. I want them to feel loved and appreciated, but by not teaching them the proper way to do things and then reinforcing it by inspection, I give them a sense that good enough is okay.

There are many aspects that make a fine human being, and some perfectionists can become difficult to live with, but it is important to find a balance. Offer love and appreciation to your children for their efforts, but also make the effort to teach them to do a job properly and develop good habits. You never know, the bathroom cleaning lessons, may just be the seeds that produce a great chef, brilliant inventor or innovative engineer. Keep on teaching mama, it matters more than you know.
Ella polishing the faucet.

 A link to a bathroom cleaning tutorial by the queen of perfectionism.


  1. You know how I feel about that :)... Great post!

  2. Jacqueline, I signed out, thanks for pointing out the problem.
    P.S. and you were right all along, although in my defense at the time of printing the book, the restaurant probably was the whole of Mr. Keller's personal life. Someone who has the skills to be the best chef in America, may not have the flexibility it takes to say, keep a marriage together, although keeping his restaurant going could be the equivalent.