I've interviewed rock stars before, movie stars, even presidents but in my 13 years of journalism, I've never seen my co-workers more envious or excited than when I told them I was interviewing chef Thomas Keller. It just goes to show that the heart of the journalist can be reached through the stomach.
Keller is of course the founder of Napa Valley's famed French Laundry.
The Yountville restaurant has earned an almost mythical status.
Blame that on its 3-star Michelin rating (which it was once again awarded this week), the fact it's often called the best restaurant in the country, or that you have to book a reservation months in advance.
Or maybe it's just because his eclectic prix-fixe menu is a surreal extravaganza that feels like a dining marathon of strange and magical flavors.
Funny, for such a famous restaurant, my photographer drove past it twice.
Even with mapquest directions. Which in a way says more than a mouthful about Keller and his restaurant.
The former French laundromat (hence the name) doesn't draw much attention. Yet as you step into its modest courtyard, you feel as though you've entered dining's holy grounds.
Keller met us in the lobby dressed in crisp whites.
His assistant handed us a bag of homemade butter cookies for the trip home.
As my photographer tweaked his shot, we chit-chatted about his childhood on the East Coast.
He talked about the olive oil business he started before French Laundry.
He told me he'd sit at the end of a grocery aisle peddling his olive oil, trying to figure out his life's calling.
As the television lights turned on, he spoke passionately about his passion for interesting flavors, the joy of California's fresh produce and his love for simple food.
It reminded me of how lucky I am to live within arm's reach of the nation's food basket -- and the same region as one of dinner's greatest champions.