Robbie Nowlin, chef de cuisine at the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, will soon be working at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. The restaurant, under the direction of chef Thomas Keller, has been hailed by many publications as the finest in the country.
Nowlin, who grew up in nearby Fairfield, Calif., will be Keller's chef de partie, which places him in charge of the ingredient preparation for the restaurant.
"It's awesome," he said of the news, adding that he's "nervous" as well as excited.
In culinary circles, Keller is held in the same respect that Michael Jordan is among sports fans, Nowlin said, and he's been a Keller fan for years now.
If Nowlin's name is familiar to local foodies, it's because he won the Chaine des Rotissuers competition for best young chef three years in a row. He started working in professional kitchens at age 14 and discovered his passion for cooking. He attended St. Philip's College and went to work for Damien Watel of Bistro Vatel for three and one-half years before moving to work for Jason Dady at the Lodge more than six years. He started as chef de partie, the same job he will take on at the French Laundry.
The title may be the same but the duties are much different. For starters, Nowlin will have three commis, or apprentices, working under him in a kitchen with 30 cooks. "It's definitely bigger," Nowlin said with a chuckle thinking about the size of the two kitchens.
"Also, chef de partie is obviously a step down from chef de cuisine … but well worth stepping down in rank to work at the best restaurant in the country if not the world," he said.
He will be moving with his 6-month-old son and fiancée about two weeks before he begins work on April 18. He will remain at the Lodge until then.
"We are all very excited for him," Dady said. "What an awesome opportunity for him!"