Even If You Can Stand the Heat

You don't pay to see the understudy, you pay to see the star. Grant Achatz knows this. To his surprise he has become the sort of star diners expect to see, especially after they've fought for reservations at Alinea, his Chicago restaurant.

In his last post he described the dilemma he faced in trying to promote more interchange between cooks and guests: a "mat plate," in which cooks assemble dishes in front of diners. Sometimes he's the cook. More often he's not. People get upset when he's not the cook doing the assembly. And they get more upset when they don't even get a mat--both impossibilities, first because he can't be at every table and second because he doesn't have enough mats, though he's working on that part.

Mats he can reproduce and buy, himself he can't. And that's the subject of today's post: how to stay creative and refreshed and keep a staff inspired and working at top capacity. His conclusions will be controversial. The need to stay as inventive as his series of posts on this site show him to be will not.

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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, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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