Thomas Keller’s three-starred Michelin restaurant in Yountville, California has been a foodie staple since its opening in 1994. The French Laundry is known for its fine French cuisine and high culinary culture – yet this is the first major design overhaul of the eatery’s headquarters in over two decades.

Enter Snøhetta, whose New York team led the new kitchen design and courtyard renovation. The works have just been completed, unveiling the complex’s major refresh, which ‘doubles the size of the existing landscape’, say the architects. Creating a state-of-the-art restaurant environment was as important as ensuring everything in the service runs smoothly; which is why the architects spent time studying the complex choreography of the restaurant’s functions. 

The project included the creation of a new 2,000 sq ft kitchen annex to house support functions, such as the butchery, produce breakdown, and wine collection. Snøhetta used simple geometries and modern materials and forms, which subtly reference the local agrarian vernacular. Charred wood partly lines the light-filled interior and a curved gypsum fibre-reinforced panel ceiling above conceals functional elements. The shape also improves the space’s acoustics. Custom-designed tables sit within the large open plan space. 

Visitors are greeted by a sequence of gardens that lead them towards the dinning areas. Landscaping includes a grove of Japanese maples and a tactile, weathered stone wall. The manicured garden and broad lawn space also allow for outdoor functions. 

‘The French Laundry has long been recognised for the culture of education and mentorship it provides its staff’, explain the architects. ‘[The] design not only optimises efficiency but also fosters a meaningful environment for the chefs who work there, setting a stage for cuisine that ignites the senses.’