Aaron Keefer ‘94

Culinary Gardiner, The French Laundry; Yountville, CA

As culinary gardener for The French Laundry, Aaron Keefer ‘94 grows and harvests specialty vegetables for Chef Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, La Calenda and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California. The desire for excellence goes beyond Chef Keller’s kitchens—Aaron collaborates on a daily basis with each culinary team to ensure that they receive only the very best produce possible. Aaron’s path toward working for one of the most respected chefs in the world included a series of serendipitous moments, beginning with his first memory of picking sun-warmed strawberries from his grandfather’s farm in upstate New York at age 5. Growing up in a farming culture, he was exposed to the rhythms of the land from a very early age and understood that cultivating with care translated to delicious and healthful food at the table. In his late teens, Aaron was drawn to the chaos of the kitchen. He liked the idea that a chef could conduct so many moving parts and distill them onto a plate, and ultimately, into a refined experience for the guest. After graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he moved to California and honed his kitchen skills under Bay Area chefs Michael Chiarello from Tra Vigne in St. Helena, Jan Birnbaum of Catahoula, and Julian Serrano at Masa’s in San Francisco. He subsequently became the executive chef at Marin Country Club and was later promoted as its food and beverage director. His desire to continue learning from the best restaurant in the industry led him to do a kitchen trail at The French Laundry. Part of his training involved spending time in the culinary garden, as Chef Keller believes that everyone needs to gain an understanding and respect for where food comes from. This immersion rekindled Aaron’s childhood connection and led to his transition from cooking to farming in 2009. Accepting the position of culinary gardener in January 2013, Aaron continues to strive on a daily basis to make improvements upon the quality of the produce, the soil, and the grounds, in order to supply the chefs with only the very best. Aaron personally curates two social media accounts for The French Laundry: The French Laundry Culinary Garden Facebook page (@tflgarden) and the TFL Culinary Garden Instagram account ( @tfl_culinarygarden) which has accumulated close to 30,000 followers  since its inception in 2013. Aaron was also a keynote speaker at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival and at the Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout. Other notable speaking engagements include Longwood Gardens and the Vintage Report Napa Valley.  His work has been featured in Yahoo!, Edible magazine, Sacramento Bee, Garden Design magazine, Napa Valley Register, Yountville Sun and Nation’s Restaurant News, among others. (Yountville, CA) @tfl_culinarygarden (Instagram)