Inside The French Laundry Kitchen

09/14/2010 03:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Lance Iversen / the Chronicle The San Francisco Chronicle

Dressed in black pants and a chef's coat, I met Hollingsworth. A blue-eyed, blond Californian, his manner is unassuming and smiley, something unusual for someone under so much pressure. Moments after meeting me, he asked if I'd like to help check in truffles and caviar. What a gentleman.

He weighed out and smelled Australian winter truffles the size of softballs, each worth approximately $1,100. "You see how this smells a little off?" he asked me, holding one up to my nose. I didn't. "I'm going to send it back."

Then he took a mother-of-pearl spoon and in succession, scooped a generous spoonful from each caviar tin, smeared each on the fat of his thumb, then licked it off, as if he were about to take a shot of tequila. He asked me which caviar I liked best. They all tasted amazing. I willed my palate to perform, then, winging it, pointed to the second tin.

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