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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

I Sold the French Laundry. Then It Became "The Best Restaurant in the World." | Op-Docs

VideosI Sold the French Laundry. Then It Became "The Best Restaurant in the World." | Op-Docs

When my father died, he held disappointment in his heart. He was 66 and had only just retired from a life of 80-hour workweeks as a successful lawyer, and this next chapter promised everything he had skimped on since deciding to go to law school: family time, creative pursuits, fun.

His liver paid no mind, however, and he died on the morning of May 1, 2020. Four days later, I interviewed Sally Schmitt, bathed in golden Californian light, via Zoom, from the damp and shadowy basement of my parents’ home in Nova Scotia.

As a filmmaker and entrepreneur, I had always admired and studied the chef Thomas Keller, a walking pinnacle of craftsmanship, refinement and success — my father’s kind of guy. I had only recently learned about Ms. Schmitt, a pioneer of the Napa Valley culinary scene and the creator of the French Laundry, the restaurant Mr. Keller made world-famous. Talking to Ms. Schmitt that morning, I learned she held a different kind of wisdom: that success may have other definitions.

Ms. Schmitt died on March 5, 2022. But in “The Best Chef in the World,” she shares with delightfully coy candor a message about the rewards of balance and the trap of ambition. I made this film for all of us who struggle “to stir and taste the soup” that already sits in front of us. Perhaps with time and Ms. Schmitt’s example, we will.

– by Ben Proudfoot

Credits
Director: Ben Proudfoot
Editors: Nick Garnham Wright
Featuring: Sally Schmitt
Cinematographer: Brandon Somerhalder, David Bolen
Original Score Composition and Orchestration: Katya Richardson
Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer: Sean Higgins
Colorist: Stephen Derluguian
Senior Post Production Supervisor: Dillon Brown
Post Production Supervisor: Laura Carlson
Co-Producers: Beatriz Browne, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Rachel Greenwald, Brandon Somerhalder
Associate Producers: Elizabeth Brooke, Sarah Stewart
Archival Producer: Sarah Stewart
Online Editor: Tyler Ten Haken
Assistant Editor : Cody Wilson
Second Unit First Assistant Camera: Jordan Scott
Story Reporting: Kirstin Falk
Archival Digitization: Hannah Auslander
Sound Effects Editor: Tom Boykin
Foley Services: POSTRED
Foley Artist: Biko Gogaladze
Foley Mixer: Giorgi Lekishvili
Foley Editor: Alexander Sanikidze
Scoring Mixer: Shachar Boussani
Musicians: Dominic Flynn, Ian Gottlieb, Vasilije Katanic, Nick Kennerly, Katya Richardson, Jonathan Schlitt, Niall Taro

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Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NYTopinion).

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