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Meet Thomas Keller, Chef / Proprietor at Chef Thomas Keller’s Restaurants. Thomas received the 2021 Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurant / Multi-Concept category, and was nominated by Nestlé Professional.

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Winner Video


This video is brought to you with the support of Nestlé Professional. 

Interview: What Drives the Nation's Top Foodservice Operators?

We asked the 2021 Silver Plate Class to share some perspectives and words of wisdom with the industry. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments, and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.

How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?

My mother started me in restaurants at an early age. She was a single parent and gave me opportunities to start off with some chores. I’m the youngest of 5 boys. My brother and I would go to the restaurant my mom was operating after school to do homework and to have some dinner, and typically do some minor things in the kitchen. I helped wash dishes while my brother helped cook.

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

The joy that comes every day being with our guests.

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.

There are too many moments to choose just one. There are three major accomplishments I’m proudest of: 1) being first American chef to win Michelin stars. 2) being honored with the French Legion d’honneur from France. Not many people get to be a Chevalier from a different country. 3) Winning the Gold for the U.S. at the Bocuse d’Or and fulfilling the obligation that we would make America a great team.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

It’s important to have patience and persistence. Take time in your career to learn what you need to learn to propel you. For me, it’s less about a culinary “industry” and more about a culinary “profession.” In a profession, it’s important to be patient. Absorb everything. Enjoy the moment. As you rise in any profession, you lose the connection to why you joined the profession. I became a cook because I love cooking. It’s important to remember why you got in to the profession to begin with. And with persistence - don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything. Don’t quit. Once you quit, you’re done.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

I’m proud and honored to be recognized by IFMA for the work our entire team has done. I’m grateful to be recognized by professionals I don’t always interact with. There are groups who have recognized you for what you’ve done, and that is encouragement for what you have in store for tomorrow. That’s reinforcement for our core values, of work ethics, direction with our careers.

What is your favorite meal?

I’d have to start with Caviar, then to a quesadilla, followed by a beautiful roasted chicken and beautiful garden salad, and then finish with two desserts - chocolate tart and lemon tart.