November 26, 2012
Former Placerville resident and chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth leaving French Laundry


We've been following Timothy Hollingsworth's career pretty closely at the Bee over the last few years. This former Placerville resident has one of the most intriguing culinary careers that we've ever seen. He got his start as a dishwasher at Zachary Jacques in Placerville and soon became one of its chef. He never went to culinary school, or worked at another restaurant, but had the gumption to apply for a job at French Laundry, the famed three Michelin star restaurant operated by Thomas Keller. Hollingsworth barely got the gig - Keller initially passed on Hollingsworth - and the young chef started as an entry-level commis. Hollingsworth rose to sous chef, and then earned one of the most prestigious titles in the culinary world: chef de cuisine for French Laundry, the head of its kitchen and Keller's right hand man.

Hollingsworth, 32, is now moving on and ready to explore other facets of the restaurant industry. He's leaving the French Laundry in the spring of 2013 and will be replaced by David Breeden, executive sous chef of Per Se - the New York City restaurant also run by Keller which has three Michelin stars to its credit. Hollingsworth will leave with 12 years of French Laundry experience to his credit.

"It's always been a goal of mine to have my own thing," said Hollingsworth. "I'm really excited to explore different opportunities. The French Laundry is also a place that's dear to me and I love so much. I consider it my home."

Along with his stint as chef de cuisine, Hollingsworth reached a number of milestones while at French Laundry. Among them: he won the James Beard Award for "rising star chef" in 2010; he led Team USA in the Bocuse d'Or - akin to the World Cup of cooking - and placed sixth out of 24 teams (the highest result to date for the Americans). Hollingsworth also served as a guest judge on TV's "Top Chef."

Hollingsworth is now looking to learn more about video-media production, and has talked with different companies about developing show ideas. He's also working out a business plan for his own Mexican restaurant.

"I've been traveling to Mexico a lot and been inspired by their food," said Hollingsworth. "I'm interested in having a restaurant with quality meats, fish and tortillas prepared with some of the techniques that I'd developed at French Laundry. Ultimately, it will be about the salsas."

Working 15 to 16 hours a day, five days a week, didn't leave much free time outside the French Laundry's kitchen for Hollingsworth. Having witnessed Hollingsworth in action for a Bee profile of him in 2010, the amount of pressure and attention to detail in that kitchen was astounding. And the food prepared by Hollingsworth and his crew was an unforgettable experience, from the famous starter course of "oysters and pearls," to artfully plated and simply delicious French Laundry garden vegetables, to grilled Japanese beef that I wish I could have a bite of now.

"The pressure is kind of what draws you into it," said Hollingsworth. "You thrive on it and are constantly pushing yourself, and desire to do things differently tomorrow."

Hollingsworth spent Thanksgiving with his family near Placerville, and plans on remaining in California once he oversees his final French Laundry dinner service next spring. In the few months leading up to that, he'll work on the transition with Breeden.

"It's a special place where so many highly ambitious, perfectionists, and dedicated people come to work for one company," said Hollingsworth. "I've made friends for life there, so it's a sad thing too and I will miss it. If I can set up a business that has that same desire, it will simply be hard not to be successful."

For more on Hollingsworth and his future business plans, check Cathie Anderson's column on Tuesday in the Bee.


* 2009 interview with Timothy Hollingsworth following the Bocuse d'Or in 2009

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