Grant Achatz

Grant Achatz is chef and owner of Chicago's Alinea. He grew up in the restaurant industry, literally, with restaurateurs as parents and grandparents. More

Born in Michigan in 1974, Grant Achatz grew up in the restaurant industry, literally, with his parents and grandparents being restaurateurs. Naturally curious and always driven, he could be found in the kitchen by his twelfth birthday and over the coming years spent most of his free time there, learning and developing the very skills that would allow him to become one of the foremost innovators in the field. Early on he realized he wanted to become a chef, and upon graduating from high school, he immediately enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. Excelling at the CIA, Achatz graduated and ascended the culinary ladder at several prestigious restaurants, including the acclaimed French Laundry in Napa Valley. Achatz worked closely with owner Thomas Keller, and thrived in his highly creative, dedicated environment. After two years, he became Keller's Sous Chef. In a decisive move to broaden his knowledge and experience, Achatz accepted a position as Assistant Winemaker at La Jota Vineyards after four years at The French Laundry. Then in 2001, he returned to the Midwest when he accepted the Executive Chef position at the four-star Trio in Evanston, Illinois. Achatz flourished at Trio, garnering accolades including being named the James Beard Foundation's 2003 Rising Star Chef in America and one of ten "Best New Chefs in America" by Food & Wine in 2002. Under Achatz's lead, Trio received four stars from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago magazine and was honored with five stars from the celebrated Mobil Travel Guide in 2004. Known worldwide in culinary circles as one of the leaders in progressive cuisine, Achatz realized a lifelong dream by opening Alinea in Chicago in May 2005. From day one, Achatz and Alinea received extraordinary attention and unprecedented accolades. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago magazine both awarded the restaurant four stars within months of opening, and the James Beard Foundation nominated Alinea as the Best New Restaurant in America within a year. In September 2005, The New York Times identified Achatz as the "next great American chef." In October a year later, Alinea received the coveted Five Diamond Award from AAA, and Ruth Reichl of Gourmet magazine declared Alinea the "Best Restaurant in America," an honor bestowed only once every five years. Under Achatz's leadership, Alinea continues to receive worldwide attention for its hypermodern, emotional approach to dining. In both 2007 and 2008, Alinea was named one of "The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants" published by Restaurant magazine, and Achatz himself received the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef in America award, the culinary equivalent of an Oscar, in 2008. Achatz has appeared on the Today show, CBS Sunday Morning, the Food Network, the Discovery Channel, and PBS, and has been featured in dozens of periodicals across the US and the globe including countries as far away as Sweden, Finland, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, the Philippines, and France.
  • Real-Life Iron Chef: A Judge Tells All

    Handpicked by Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, the author describes judging the 2010 Bocuse d'Or USA.

  • When a Chef Can't Taste His Food

    Cancer treatments robbed the author of his sense of taste. He panicked--until he realized he could use his nose.

  • Wine-Making, the Old-Fashioned Way

    When the author arrives at a Napa vineyard, he expects to find modern equipment. Reality is much different.

  • A Sweet Spot in the Middle of Dinner

    Through 27-courses, eating can get monotonous. The author creates a food and wine pairing to help fight fatigue.

  • Making Food With a Sense of Humor

    The author creates a whimsical dish using oysters, lychee, and caviar. Wine adds an ideal finishing touch.

  • Fish, Flowers, and the Taste of Youth

    Intuition inspires the author to add blossoms to a turbot dish--and his manager to pick the wine to go with it.

  • Pork, Wine, and Harmony

    The author balances the heaviness of pork belly with the lightness of lettuce. Wine pulls it all together.

  • Finding a Wine to Drink With Offal

    It can take days to turn animal organs into a satisfying dish. And then it's time to pick the wine.

  • Why Wine Pairings Matter

    The author introduces a series on pairings, explaining how he came to appreciate the way wine enhances food.

  • When a Chef Gets Famous

    Should he get out of the kitchen? One reluctant celebrity says he has to, for his brand and needs to, for his creativity.

  • When Envy is on the Menu

    What happens when the people at the next table are offered something that seems better?

  • Adventures in Latex and Silicone

    Trying to bring his restaurant's kitchen out to the dining room, the author experiments with the unusual. A description of his innovative method for including diners in the food-preparation process, plus an audio slideshow showing how it works, step by step.

  • Life, on the Line: A Memoir Proposal

    In a proposal for an upcoming memoir, the author describes his career as an award-winning chef and the battle with tongue cancer that threatened to end it.

  • Pulling Back the Kitchen Curtain

    Diners want to watch, to witness the "magic show" of a restaurant kitchen and gain an understanding of the how, why, and what of occupational cooking. The author, averse to tables in the kitchen, describes his new way to let them.

  • What if Food Changed Mid-Meal?

    From blowtorches to unexpected dousings of dairy-based broth, one chef interjects a bold new dimension to the dining experience. His "Jekyll and Hyde" idea seems simple at first, but once he gets started, questions keep arising.

  • Food Tasting or Art Installation?

    Food that pushes boundaries of cooking should challenge norms of dining, too. When do food and art merge? And is it possible to change how food is perceived if it's served within the framework of "art" and not a restaurant?

  • New Fusion: Making Old Modern

    A critically acclaimed veteran of French Laundry and leading pioneer of Molecular Gastronomy reflects on the juxtaposition of tradition and innovation. Can one forge ahead into new territory while still respecting and drawing upon the ideas of generations past?

  • Experiential Dining: Japan to America

    Most restaurants offer diners the experience they desire for the evening. But taking away some control from diners allows a chef to craft an entire culinary experience. Break open your entree with a wooden mallet. Design your next course from a list of words. Who's in control?

  • Inspired in the Dark on a Tatami Mat

    A provocative chef experiences a provocative meal. Oddities? How about starting with the snowball? Presentation matters -- context changes the way you perceive, and thus taste, food. Sometimes it takes traveling to distant countries to remember this lesson.

  • Creativity, In the Most Unexpected Places

    Each season, the best chefs change their menus entirely. It can be hard to find new sources of inspiration.


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

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What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

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Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming



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