Smoking Gun

As part of Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman realized that he had a great opportunity to tell a two-part story about how Thomas Keller, regarded by many as the best chef in America, uses tools and the latest culinary equipment to turn out Michelin three-star meals at his famous restaurants, The French Laundry, in Yountville, Calif.; and Per Se, in New York City.

First, Terdiman visited The French Laundry, and got a tour of the facilities from Chef de Cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth, who demonstrated many of the restaurant's tools, including this Smoking Gun from PolyScience. Used to infuse many ingredients with flavored smoke created by heating special sawdust, the Smoking Gun is a favorite and efficient way to give dishes more flavor.

Keller uses many of the same tools and technologies at both restaurants, as well as at others he owns.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Michelin three stars

For anyone who knows about the restaurant industry, three Michelin stars means the best of the best. Both The French Laundry and Per Se are consistently awarded three stars by Michelin, and are two of just five restaurants in the United States with that honor.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Per Se kitchen

A view of the main area in the Per Se kitchen. Per Se is located in Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in New York, and because it was one of the restaurants chosen in 2001 to be included in the new development, Keller was given the opportunity to design exactly the space he wanted. The restaurant's kitchen is huge, especially considering that it is at one of the most prestigious addresses in Manhattan.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Videoconferencing French Laundry

Though The French Laundry and Per Se are very different in decor, they offer similar menus, and often exchange staff. Each also has a videoconferencing system installed in its main kitchen area that shows the other restaurant's kitchen.

This is designed so that kitchen staff in both restaurants can see what the others are working on, and so they can greet each other, something that makes sense, given that staff often move back and forth between the two restaurants.

Each system consists of a large screen and a camera, and each screen shows both kitchens at once.

The California staff likes to use the videoconferencing system to taunt its New York City colleagues with the fresh vegetables from The French Laundry's large outdoor garden and greenhouse.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Per Se video

A view of the videoconferencing screen in the Per Se kitchen. Because this photo was taken early in the afternoon, and New York is three hours ahead of California, there was little activity that could be seen going on in The French Laundry kitchen, even as action was picking up in New York.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

Updated:
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Tomatoes

Thomas Keller's restaurants are known for the quality of the ingredients used in the trend-setting cuisine. Here, we see fresh tomatoes that are being stored on racks in one of Per Se's many "reach-in" refrigerators. Instead of having large walk-in coolers, as do many restaurants, Per Se has many of these large reach-in fridges, and in this one, there are several pull-out racks on which the staff keeps fragile fruits and vegetables that can't be stacked.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

French Laundry sous vide

At The French Laundry, Keller became an early proponent of a system of cooking known as sous vide. It involves vacuum-sealing ingredients and then heating them in water with precisely controlled temperatures. This is The French Laundry's vacuum sealing system. On the right are rolls of water-tight bags, and on the left is the sealing system.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Cepes

Here, we see a sealed bag of cepes--mushrooms--being heated in a container that has its temperature set at a precise heat. One advantage of this system is that the kitchen staff knows that it is completely consistent in how it heats food.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Apple slices

A bag that has gone through the sous vide system, containing thin slices of peeled Granny Smith apple that have been prepared in water and ascorbic acid.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

Updated:
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Flavored sawdust

These are two containers of the flavored sawdust used in the Smoking Gun system.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Temperature-sensing system

At Per Se, in New York, there is a system of sensors in all the refrigerators. The sensors keep track of the temperature in the fridges, and can alert staff members by e-mail if any fridges go above normal for too long. This screen shows the temperatures in all the kitchen's fridges.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

Updated:
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Induction burner

An induction burner at Per Se. This is a system that relies on magnets in both the burner and special pots and produces heat only when the two are in contact. This system heats food or water very quickly and produces very little ambient heat.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Nordaq

This is a Fresh Nordaq system, which is in use at both The French Laundry and Per Se. The system is used to filter tap water, allowing both restaurants to serve customers very clean still or sparkling water without having to import water from France and England, as they had done in the past. This saves money, storage space, and is considered much better for the environment.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Geothermal AC

At The French Laundry, heat, air conditioning, and ventilation in the kitchen and the dining room are provided through this geothermal system in which air is pulled up from drilled holes that go down as much as 50 feet below the ground.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Paco Jet

This is, as Per Se pastry chef Elwyn Boyles put it, a glorified mixer. But the $5,000 Paco Jet machine allows the pastry chefs to take rock-solid frozen ice cream and quickly mix it to a smooth consistency at any time. This is important, Boyles said, because it allows the restaurant to prepare ice cream on demand that may, for example, have no dairy, sugar, or gluten--without seeming icy.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

The ice cream

A container of gluten-, sugar-, and dairy-free ice cream produced using the Paco Jet. Note the smooth consistency, and consider the fact that this ice cream was rock solid just two minutes earlier.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Rational oven

An increasingly popular restaurant oven, the Rational--seen here at Per Se--allows pastry chefs, or others in the kitchen, to cook at precise temperatures, and to set those temperatures ahead of time, as well as to direct how long the oven should cook.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Reach-in

The produce reach-in refrigerator at Per Se.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

French Laundry lettuce

One advantage of being in California's Napa Valley is that The French Laundry can have a large and beautiful outdoor garden. Seen here are rows of lettuce in the garden. Per Se uses fresh ingredients, but doesn't have its own vegetable garden.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Greenhouse

The greenhouse at The French Laundry, where the restaurant grows many of the tomatoes it uses, as well as other vegetables.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

Updated:
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Menu in progress

On the morning of July 8, that day's Per Se menu is seen, in progress, in the kitchen.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

Updated:
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Per Se

The sign outside Per Se, in New York.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

Columbus Circle

The world-class view of New York's Columbus Circle, as seen from the Per Se dining room.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

The French Laundry

The sign outside the world-famous French Laundry, in Yountville, Calif.

A behind-the-scenes story on the technology and gear of The French Laundry and Per Se can be found here.

Click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:
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