Over the weekend, The French Laundry released news that Timothy Hollingsworth would be stepping down as chef de cuisine after more than three years in the role, and after a decade in Thomas Keller’s Yountville kitchen. The 2010 James Beard Rising Star will remain on board for a careful transition, with Per Se sous chef David Breeden on his way over from New York in January. By mid- to late-spring, Hollingsworth is ready to break out on his own, and he tells Grub Street today that though he may take on a couple of consulting gigs, he actually knows what he wants to do next, and it won’t be in another three-star Michelin kitchen. Actually, it involves tacos. See our conversation below.
So, how long has this departure been in the works?
I’d say about a year. It’s taken that long for me to figure out what my real goals are for what to do next, and to get the ball rolling on finding a replacement.
And what are your next steps? The press release referred to some "culinary consulting"?
It’s not my goal to be a consultant. I may do a few consulting gigs during this transition, but my end goal is to explore video/media opportunities, as well as open up a very different kind of restaurant.
I’ve been vacationing in Mexico for a while, mostly to go surfing. And one of the things I really like at the little taquerias there are all the different salsas they have for the tacos. Whether it’s mole, habanero, tomatillo, or whatever, you always have this great selection of fresh salsas to change up your taco day to day.
So, I’ve been thinking about a casual, Mexican-style taqueria, Basically, using some of the techniques I’ve learned at the French Laundry and nice ingredients, and to explore opportunities for bringing this concept to different parts of California.
Basically, it’s really hard to go out and have a casual meal in a restaurant every single day where the ingredients are good, and it’s prepared well, and it’s somewhat healthy, and has great value. I think it’s important for us to have that, and I want to market that and tap into that idea. I’m thinking great tortillas, quality meats and fish, and these really excellent salsas
You’ve been living in Yountville for a while. Will you be moving right away?
Yes. I’ll probably move to either San Francisco or L.A. That’s still up in the air.
And tell us about this video/media thing.
That’s also kind of up in the air, but I’m currently meeting with a few different people who could help me with that.
How long do you expect the transition to take, and for chef David Breeden to take over?
I’m committed to the restaurant until David is trained and until the whole staff is comfortable. He won’t be out here until early next year, and we’re closed most of January. So I see it being at least a couple of months after that.
Will you be taking a long vacation, too?
I’ll take a little time off, but I’m excited to jump into this next project. And given that it’s going to be really different hours than I currently have, it’ll kind of be like a vacation in itself.