The dynamic duo, Chantal and chef Hubert Keller. Photo courtesy of Chantal Keller.
The famous fabric-tented dining room of Fleur de Lys. Photo: Bill Milnes.
Last week I heard through the grapevine that one of our city’s most well-known fine dining institutions, ~FLEUR DE LYS~, was closing. That same day, I actually ran into chef-owner Hubert Keller and his wife Chantal at the pre-opening party for Aveline, and he confirmed the rumor. The next morning, as the news broke around town, chef Keller gave me a call to talk more in detail about the upcoming closure. He said he has never had so many texts and phone calls, along with a flood of emails, with each and every one telling a story, whether it was of a guest’s engagement, or when they dined at Fleur for the first time with their parents. Chef Keller said, “It’s all so interesting. The news traveled faster than a brush fire. I feel like I have been hit by a truck!”
The restaurant has been open for 28 years with the Kellers, the site of so many romantic dinners, anniversaries, birthdays, and proposals (the location first opened in the late 1950s, and Maurice Rouas purchased it in 1970—he brought on Hubert Keller in 1986). So you can just imagine how many people have been flurrying to make a reservation for one last goodbye before the restaurant closes on Saturday June 28th. The Kellers ended up calling in an extra hostess to handle all the calls, and most people calling have said, “We’ll take anything that’s open!” The phone has literally been ringing off the hook.
The Kellers have been so touched by the outpouring of kindness. Chef Keller said, “It reminds me of when we reopened after the fire. We were closed for 11 months, and I wondered, will they come back? And on that first night, the room was packed! It felt so good, after being closed for so long.”
Chef Keller is actually turning the big 6-0 this week (he’ll be spinning a special birthday set at The Starlight Room this Thursday June 12th in the evening, if you’d like to come party with him), and he said that they knew at some point they were going to need to step back. So, as a couple, they made the hard decision that now was the time. It’s a unique scenario since they own the building and the restaurant. Instead of trying to sell the business, since it’s their name on the door, chef said they wanted “less headaches” and will be selling the building. It will be a great deal for whoever takes it over since they already massively upgraded the foundation and bone structure of the building after the fire in 2001 (it was a $4 million renovation). It’s such a rare opportunity to be your own landlord, so whoever takes over the space will have quite the plum.
The Kellers will still be busy with their multiple Burger Bar locations and Fleur in Vegas, and chef Keller also hinted that he has another book in him, so he hopes to be able to dedicate some time to writing it, in addition to doing more of his television series, Hubert Keller: Secrets of a Chef.
There’s a very sweet farewell letter on the Fleur homepage. Best wishes to the Kellers, and everyone on their staff—it’s quite a family over there. 777 Sutter St. at Jones, 415-673-7779.