When chef Thomas Keller heard about the quality of seafood from a supplier in Maine, he wrote to the company's owner.
"Would you sell me lobsters," Keller recalled asking.
The answer was no.
"She wasn't interested in selling me lobsters because she didn't know who I was and what my standards are."
It took Keller two years to get his first shipment of lobsters from Ingrid Bengis, a Fulbright scholar who has had a career as a writer in addition to running her company, Ingrid Bengis Seafood.
Keller, who spoke at the TEDx East conference in New York earlier this month, talked about the network of suppliers he uses for his now acclaimed restaurants, including The French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York - the wild mushroom forager, the dentists who run a fruit farm, the banker who decided to raise lambs.
In an interview with CNN, Keller made the case for going to extraordinary lengths to get the best ingredients, for paying suppliers more and for paying restaurant staff well. He took issue with what he described as the economy's relentless drive for producing and selling goods more cheaply.