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.