Despite his years in the cutthroat world of fine dining, Thomas Keller, the celebrated chef who owns acclaimed Yountville restaurant the French Laundry, Ad Hoc, and Bouchon (as well as numerous other restaurants across the U.S.) is not impervious to criticism, it seems. On Wednesday, Keller, along with Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud, were named to the White House’s Economic Council for Restaurants, a group tasked with saving an industry devastated by the coronavirus crisis. Keller’s tweet declaring the appointment an honor was roundly mocked, a ratio that he responded to with a series of angry tweets a day later.
Honored @realdonaldtrump asked me & @danielboulud @wolfgangpuck @jeangeorges to join @whitehouse Great American Economic Revival Industry Group. Proud to work together towards a strategy where the safety of Americans is top of mind in conjunction towards economic revitalization.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 15, 2020
In the nearly 800 responses to Keller’s initial tweet, one sees a variety of reasons people are dismayed: Obviously, there’s the tie (however tenuous it might be) to President Donald Trump, who — you might have heard — is a fairly divisive figure. Then there’s the makeup of the council itself, a group that’s part of the White House’s so-called “Great American Economic Revival Industry Group.” Other than the men listed above, the other members of the panel represent corporations like Chick-fil-A, Subway, and Pepsi — hardly the companies one thinks of when one considers the restaurateurs hardest hit by the crisis. Those council members, as well, are all male.
That concern isn’t one addressed by Keller in his series of scolding tweets Thursday, remarks that refer to critics of the council as “haters and cynics” and urge “shame” for those who might suggest that aligning oneself with the current commander-in-chief is worth reconsidering. Here’s his response to critics of the initial announcement, in full:
Since we have been hit with this global pandemic impacting the health and well-being of countless lives; we have worked tirelessly at feeding our communities, our neighbors, and our colleagues.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 16, 2020
I, with many of my colleagues, have decided we have to fight to attempt to save our industry as a whole. While we may be fighting for different things, it's all for one goal.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 16, 2020
Whether the broken PPP, the need for business insurance relief, or the unprecedented economic hardship - each issue is dire. More than 15 million people’s livelihoods are at stake right now. Shame on those who think working with the federal government is reprehensible.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 16, 2020
This is not a partisan issue; millions are struggling to put a meal on their table. I stand proudly alongside some of the great thought-leaders of today; Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, Ajay Banga, Condoleezza Rice, Adam Silver, Ann Mukherjee, Barbara Grimm, and many others.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 16, 2020