kottke.org posts about Grant Achatz

Let's build a massive meta McDonald's in Times SquareJan 23 2013

Writing for The Awl, Jeb Boniakowski shares his vision for a massive McDonald's complex in Times Square that serves food from McDonald's restaurants from around the world, offers discontinued food items (McLean Deluxe anyone?), and contains a food lab not unlike David Chang's Momofuku test kitchen.

The central attraction of the ground floor level is a huge mega-menu that lists every item from every McDonald's in the world, because this McDonald's serves ALL of them. There would probably have to be touch screen gadgets to help you navigate the menu. There would have to be whole screens just dedicated to the soda possibilities. A concierge would offer suggestions. Celebrities on the iPad menus would have their own "meals" combining favorites from home ("Manu Ginobili says 'Try the medialunas!'") with different stuff for a unique combination ONLY available at McWorld. You could get the India-specific Chicken Mexican Wrap ("A traditional Mexican soft flat bread that envelops crispy golden brown chicken encrusted with a Mexican Cajun coating, and a salad mix of iceberg lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and celery, served with eggless mayonnaise, tangy Mexican Salsa sauce and cheddar cheese." Wherever possible, the menu items' descriptions should reflect local English style). Maybe a bowl of Malaysian McDonald's Chicken Porridge or The McArabia Grilled Kofta, available in Pakistan and parts of the Middle East. You should watch this McArabia ad for the Middle Eastern-flavored remix of the "I'm Lovin' It" song if for nothing else.

And I loved his take on fast food as molecular gastronomy:

How much difference really is there between McDonald's super-processed food and molecular gastronomy? I used to know this guy who was a great chef, like his restaurant was in the Relais & Châteaux association and everything, and he'd always talk about how there were intense flavors in McDonald's food that he didn't know how to make. I've often thought that a lot of what makes crazy restaurant food taste crazy is the solemn appreciation you lend to it. If you put a Cheeto on a big white plate in a formal restaurant and serve it with chopsticks and say something like "It is a cornmeal quenelle, extruded at a high speed, and so the extrusion heats the cornmeal 'polenta' and flash-cooks it, trapping air and giving it a crispy texture with a striking lightness. It is then dusted with an 'umami powder' glutamate and evaporated-dairy-solids blend." People would go just nuts for that. I mean even a Coca-Cola is a pretty crazy taste.

I love both mass-produced processed foods and the cooking of chefs like Grant Achatz & Ferran Adrià. Why is the former so maligned while the latter gets accolades when they're the same thing? (And simultaneously not the same thing at all, but you get my gist.) Cheetos are amazing. Oscar Meyer bologna is amazing. Hot Potato Cold Potato is amazing. Quarter Pounders with Cheese are amazing. Adrià's olives are amazing. Coca-Cola is amazing. (Warhol: " A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.") WD50's Everything Bagel is amazing. Cheerios are amazing. All have unique flavors that don't exist in nature -- you've got to take food apart and put it back together in a different way to find those new tastes.

Some of these fancy chefs even have an appreciation of mass produced processed foods. Eric Ripert of the 4-star Le Berdardin visited McDonald's and Burger King to research a new burger for one of his restaurants. (Ripert also uses processed Swiss cheese as a baseline flavor at Le Bernardin.) David Chang loves instant ramen and named his restaurants after its inventor. Ferran Adrià had his own flavor of Lay's potato chips in Spain. Thomas Keller loves In-N-Out burgers. Grant Achatz eats Little Caesars pizza.

What's Next for Next Restaurant?Jul 20 2011

In this interview with Francis Lam, Grant Achatz drops some clues as to what the menu at Next might look like in the near future:

Chef Dave is really inspired by a children's book right now, and our next menu can be entirely built on that. Or we can be an exact replica of another time and place. One menu might be from my memory: My first day at The French Laundry. It comes down to trying to be expressive. You can be expressive with a plate of food, or with the whole concept of a restaurant.

Another menu we're planning is El Bulli. One course from each year from 1983 to 2003. I'd work with Ferran [Adria] to choose the dishes that he feels are his most significant; I'd need to get him on board with that.

That El Bulli menu? Fucking crazytown. And this is the third or fourth time I've heard about the "first day at The French Laundry" menu and every single time my mouth starts watering and my hand reaches for my wallet. (via @kathrynyu)

What's Next after Alinea?Feb 16 2011

The NY Times has a preview of Grant Achatz's and Nick Kokonas's next restaurant Next. [Insert elaborate Who's On First routine with a nice mise en place pun here.]

The two of them -- the spare, driven artist and the comfortable, fluid patron -- evoke a modern Michelangelo and Medici, bonded by mutual trust and now locked into a very public artistic endeavor. With Next, Mr. Achatz is operating at a level of creative and financial freedom enjoyed by very few artists and only a handful of chefs in history.

And this line got me more excited than I should admit:

A menu might be designed around a single day -- say, the Napa Valley on Oct. 28, 1996, the day Mr. Achatz started work at the French Laundry, where he remained until 2001.

The slideshow has some photos of the food.

Grant Achatz's memoir out soonJan 25 2011

Life, on the Line is the forthcoming memoir of chef Grant Achatz about his early life, his training at The French Laundry under Thomas Keller, the opening of the reigning Best Restaurant in America, and his diagnosis of a life-and career-threatening illness. Somewhat unusually, the book was jointly written by Achatz and Nick Kokonas, his friend and business partner. The newly launched companion web site has more info, including excerpts.

"Chef, you have Ruth Reichl on line two," one of the reservationists whispered to me as I peeled asparagus. I walked to the host area and saw the light for line two blinking; I grabbed the handle and pushed the button.

After exchanging greetings she spoke up. I was wildly and unexpectedly nervous.

"Grant, I don't know if you know this, but every five years Gourmet does a restaurant issue where we rank the fifty best restaurants in the country." I told her I recall seeing it back in 2001, and remembered that Chez Panisse coming in at number one and the Laundry at three.

"Well, the issue will come out this October, and I wanted to call you personally and tell you that we have chosen Alinea to be on the list." She paused for dramatic effect. "At number one."

Bubble gin and tonicAug 24 2010

One of the drinks that the Alinea crew is tinkering with for Aviary (a cocktail bar with food pairings) is like bubble tea crossed with gin and tonic.

(via svn)

What's next for the Alinea team?May 04 2010

Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, and his team are opening a restaurant called Next:

No reservations...you have to buy tickets, like for a play or a ballgame.

Your tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service. Ticket price will depend on which seating you buy -- Saturday at 8 PM will be more expensive than Wednesday at 9:30 PM. This will allow us to offer an amazing experience at a very reasonable price. We will also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount with preferred seating.

The menu changes four times a year and each menu will be influenced by a particular place and time (Paris 1912, Hong Kong 2036). A Mad Men-era NYC menu please?

Grant Achatz on El BulliFeb 16 2010

Alinea chef Grant Achatz describes what he witnessed the first time he ate and cooked at El Bulli in 2000.

Chef Keller looked down at the magazine and spoke softly: Read this tonight when you go home. His food really sounds interesting, and right up your alley. I think you should go stage there this summer....I will arrange it for you.

Grant Achatz in the New YorkerMay 05 2008

The New Yorker profiles chef Grant Achatz this week. The piece focuses on his restaurant, Alinea, and the battle with tongue cancer that threatened his life, and worse to Achatz, his career and passion. The loss of his sense of taste had a bright side:

Because his ability to taste has come back over time, Achatz feels that he is understanding the sense in a new way -- the way you would if you could see only in black-and-white and, one by one, colors were restored to you. He says, "When I first tasted a vanilla milkshake" -- after the end of his treatment -- "it tasted very sweet to me, because there's no salt, no acid. It just tasted sweet. Now, introduce bitter, so now I'm understanding the relationship between sweet and bitter -- how they work together and how they balance. And now, as salt comes back, I understand the relationship among the three components."

In the Diner's Journal, Pete Wells contrasts Achatz with another chef that the New Yorker recently profiled, Momofuku's David Chang.

In March, The New Yorker published a profile of a chef who was about to open a restaurant. The chef complained about his health, worried about the future and cursed as if he had slammed his thumb in a car door.

On Monday, the magazine will publish a profile of another chef. Last year a doctor told this chef that he had advanced oral cancer and that unless he had his tongue cut out, he would be dead within a few months. According to The New Yorker, the chef reacted as if he'd just been handed a particularly challenging logic problem.

The point of the contrast is not to marginalize Chang's problems or his reaction to them but to demonstrate what a different approach Achatz takes to kitchen work than the typical (stereotypical?) Anthony Bourdainity of the restaurant kitchen.

The NYer article includes an online companion, a slideshow of photos of the latest menu items at Alinea and chef Achatz, looking very Seth Bullock.

Four chefs talk about how their kitchensApr 21 2008

Four chefs talk about how their kitchens are laid out in this month's Metropolis. Here's Dan Barber talking about his role at Blue Hill at Stone Barns:

At the same time, I don't think the cooks look at me as a real community member. I'm not that cozy paternal figure. I'm always doing different things, and it creates this atmosphere where the cooks are on the balls of their feet. They're thinking, Where's he going next, what's happening next? There's a little bit of confusion. I think that's good. It's hard to articulate, because you think of the kitchen as very organized; and, like I said, the more control you have, the better. But a little bit of chaos creates tension. And that creates energy and passion, and it tends to make you season something the right way or reach for something that would add this, that, or the other thing.

The other chefs are Alice Waters, Grant Achatz, and Wylie Dufresne. The one thing they all talked about is the importance of open sight lines, both between the dining room and kitchen and among the chefs in the kitchen.

Interview with chefs Grant Achatz of AlineaMar 31 2008

Interview with chefs Grant Achatz of Alinea and Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, mostly about the cookbooks that they're working on. Achatz is self-publishing the Alinea Book and using the exact recipes from the restaurant:

For us, we felt the most important thing was to express the restaurant in its most accurate fashion, and try to convey to the reader what Alinea and the food are all about. We felt that if we eliminated some of the techniques because they were too difficult, or some of the ingredients because they were too hard to find, then you would be left with something that's not representative of the restaurant or of the cuisine itself. So our effort was to convey the emotion, the expression, the essence of the restaurant, and also hopefully-if the recipes are written well enough-to dispel the myth that cooking in this style is impossible for somebody who isn't a professional cook.

He also mentions that the ingredient amounts in the recipes are metric, meaning that a digital scale is required. Maybe they should make the cookbook itself a digital scale...just make the cover a little thicker, throw some sensors in there with a digital display in the lower right hand corner, and there you go!

Good news: Alinea's Grant Achatz announces thatDec 18 2007

Good news: Alinea's Grant Achatz announces that his cancer is in remission. Achatz found out earlier this year that he had cancer of the mouth and instead of the traditional surgery route, he worked with his doctors on a treatment that would allow him to continue to cook, his profession and passion.

Teaser trailer for Alinea's cookbook, which isSep 23 2007

Teaser trailer for Alinea's cookbook, which is due out in Autumn 2008 and will contain 600 recipes. Pre-orders through the site will get signed copies and early access to a companion web site which will contain more recipes, demo videos, and behind the scenes videos. I'm really appreciating the effort these top chefs and restaurants make to open source their recipes and process...it sounds like between the book and web site, one could open a restaurant serving Alinea's menu. (Whether that restaurant would be successful or not would depend mostly on the 90% of the stuff involved with running a restaurant that doesn't rely on the ability to read a cookbook.)

Update: Jason Fried says businesses could learn a lot from chefs giving their secrets away.

The nominees for the 2007 Beard Awards wereMar 19 2007

The nominees for the 2007 Beard Awards were announced this morning. I'm disappointed that Alinea and Grant Achatz aren't on the list more (Achatz got a lone nomination for best chef in the Great Lakes region) but am happy to see David Chang, Ssam, Thomas Keller, and Wylie Dufresne on the list.

Nice interview with Grant Achatz, owner andMar 01 2007

Nice interview with Grant Achatz, owner and chef at Alinea, which many consider to be the best restaurant in America right now.

Megnut's got the scoop: Gourmet magazine hasSep 20 2006

Megnut's got the scoop: Gourmet magazine has named Alinea the best restaurant in the US, amazing considering its only been open a little more than a year. "[Grant Achatz] is redefining the American restaurant once again for an entirely new generation. And that -- more than his gorgeous, inventive, and delicious food -- is what makes Alinea the got-to-go-to restaurant in the country right now." (I would argue that the food is the real reason to go, but whatever...)

Wired magazine reports on the revolutionary foodMay 03 2006

Wired magazine reports on the revolutionary food and strange equipment (antigriddle!) used by chef Grant Achatz in the kitchen at Alinea. "The technology allows us to get to the essence of food. It allows you to be more true with flavor, not less true."

Photos of the new fall menu atOct 20 2005

Photos of the new fall menu at Alinea in Chicago, helmed by chef Grant Achatz. Looks weird, decadent, and delicious. (via afb)

Forbes has a list of 10 chef "tastemakers",Oct 13 2005

Forbes has a list of 10 chef "tastemakers", including Thomas Keller, Alain Ducasse, and Grant Achatz.

Photos of the 28-course tasting menu atMay 12 2005

Photos of the 28-course tasting menu at chef Grant Achatz's Alinea.

this is kottke.org

   Front page
   About + contact
   Site archives

You can follow kottke.org on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Feedly, or RSS.

Ad from The Deck

We Work Remotely

 

Enginehosting

Hosting provided EngineHosting