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A relentlessly experimental chef needs to know what he's doing, a friend who had worked at the Fat Duck was telling me last night at a soothingly familiar Italian supper (even if in very sleek surroundings and with jarring lashings of butter dressing the pasta). The Fat Duck, of course, is one of the international landmarks of pushing-the-boundaries cooking. I'll try to get him to recount here some of his stories of what he watched Heston Blumenthal, the former enfant-terrible chef and owner, put into his dishes in merry and defiant ignorance (my words, not his! and to be fair, Blumenthal has showed in his books that he too has a healthy love and understanding of classic Italian food, whatever he makes at his restaurant).

I responded with an account of how Grant Achatz is the opposite of that, with his rigorous training and experience at the French Laundry, and the concern for flavor that always comes through above the theatrics and ceremony at his Alinea. I didn't dream, though, that I'd learn as much about the thought that goes behind creating that experience, and the attention to every kind of diner, neophyte and seen-it-all professional, Achatz puts into his every plan. Today's post shows that and more, and I'm viewing his series like the reader of a Dickens serial novel, never knowing what's coming next--as, even better, Achatz doesn't know himself.

For exoticism of the kind everyone approves of and travels to find, Maggie Schmitt takes us to breakfast in Tangier, where the familiar mixes with the un- in a natural, time-evolved juxtaposition any Achatz-inspired chef can point to whenever sniffy purists like my friend and me last night start scolding. And then Carol Ann Sayle reminds us in her always-smart, down-to-earth way what's necessary to get anything onto the table: rain.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, and came to The Atlantic Monthly in 1981. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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