Timothy Hollingsworth is chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller's iconic three-Michelin-starred French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. He was recently named rising star chef at the James Beard Foundation Awards, one of the USA's most prestigious culinary accolades. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn
Caterer How do you feel having won the James Beard award?
Timothy Hollingsworth It's a very humbling experience to be part of such an elite group of chefs who have won this award before. It's one of the most recognised accolades in the USA and there's a time limit on it too - you have to be aged 30 or younger so I just made it. I feel very privileged to have been chosen above the other nominated chefs.
Caterer When did you first decide to become a chef?
TH I started working in the kitchens of a local restaurant in my home town of Placerville, California, when I was 18 but it wasn't until I was 20 that I decided I wanted to become a chef. I went to various catering colleges but realised that the college route wasn't for me and I wanted to learn hands-on in a working kitchen.
I joined the French Laundry in Yountville as a commis chef in 2001 and have worked my way up through the ranks. During this time I have also done stages in Europe, within Gordon Ramsay Holdings and Le Gavroche in London, and at Lucas Carton and Michel Rostang in Paris. I also helped Thomas to set up Per Se in New York in 2004.
Caterer What have you learned from Thomas Keller?
TH The biggest thing I have learned from him is a good work ethic. His ethos is about always working hard, always choosing to do the right thing and helping others in the kitchen even when you are busy in the middle of service.
Caterer What's next for you?
TH I've only been chef de cuisine at the French Laundry for one year so the plan for now is to stay here, focus on the job at hand and maintain the legacy of the restaurant. At some point in the future I would like to open my own restaurant in California near the ocean. We have access to the most amazing produce in California and it's a beautiful place to live.
Caterer You represented the USA at last year's Bocuse d'Or in Lyon. How important is a competition like that to the industry?
TH I think it's extremely important and in the USA it's becoming more and more significant as the industry is becoming more aware of it. Here we have never had much of a competition culture among professional chefs. Competition chefs are very different to restaurant chefs and restaurant chefs haven't really wanted to compete much, so in a way we've had a disadvantage at the Bocuse d'Or. But things are starting to change.