California politicians flambéed over meals at luxurious French Laundry

Julia Carrie Wong
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP</span>
Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

The French Laundry has been awarded three stars by Michelin, showered with the loftiest food and wine awards, and deemed “the best restaurant in the world, period” by Anthony Bourdain. But Thomas Keller’s storied eatery now has a new claim to fame: it’s the place where California politicians go to break their own coronavirus guidelines.

San Francisco mayor London Breed is under fire after it was revealed that she attended a birthday party at the restaurant in Napa Valley, just one night after governor Gavin Newsom did the same.

Breed’s party of eight met at the famed restaurant on 7 November to celebrate the birthday of Gorretti Lo Lui, a local socialite whose husband, Lawrence Lui, is a major hotel developer, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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Dining indoors was allowed in Napa county at the time, the Chronicle reports, though statewide guidelines discouraged gatherings with members of more than three households.

“Breed’s dinner at an opulent restaurant – amid an economic catastrophe that’s shuttered countless small businesses and stretched the lines at local food banks to new lengths – might not have technically violated the rules, but it isn’t a great look,” wrote Chronicle columnist Heather Knight, who broke the story.

The French Laundry offers reservations for a number of different dining experiences, including outside dining with a tasting menu for $350 per person, indoor dining for $450 per person, or a white truffle and caviar dinner for $1,200 per person.

California on Sunday recorded 7,415 Covid-19 hospitalizations, more than any time since the start of the pandemic. Like much of the rest of the country, the state is bracing for a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases.

On Monday, governor Gavin Newsom warned the northern California ICUs could hit capacity by early December, with the entire state running out of free ICU beds by mid-December.

San Francisco officials on Tuesday announced they are considering more stringent restrictions on businesses and private gatherings as cases continue to spike, including further limits to outdoor dining and reduced capacity at gyms and local businesses.

Breed warned that the number of cases in the city has risen sharply, and acknowledged that the restrictions have been hard on many residents, including on her.

Yet California’s political leaders have made a frustrating habit of flouting the very public health guidelines they expect the public to follow.

Newsom faced criticism after it was revealed that he and 11 other guests celebrated the birthday of a lobbyist, Jason Kinney, at the French Laundry in early November. He eventually apologized, saying, “I need to preach and practice, not just preach and not practice.”

Earlier on Tuesday, San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo apologized for attending a Thanksgiving dinner with family members from five households – more than state regulations allowed.

Breed did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.