Friday, May 10, 2013

Reinventing Food Texture and Flavor- Lecture 6- Grant Achatz


Speaker: Grant Achatz (Alinea) 

Location: Science Center B 

This public lecture series discusses concepts from the physical sciences that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine. Each lecture features a world-class chef who visited and presented their remarkable culinary designs: Ferran Adria presented spherification; Jose Andres discussed both the basic components of food and gelation; Joan Roca demonstrated sous vide; Enric Rovira showed his chocolate delicacies; Wylie Dufresne presented inventions with transglutaminase. The lectures then use these culinary creations as inspiration to delve into understanding how and why cooking techniques and recipes work, focusing on the physical transformations of foods and material properties.

Who is Grant Achatz?

Grant Achatz (born April 25, 1974) is an American chef and restaurateur often identified as one of the leaders in molecular gastronomy or culinary physics. His Chicago restaurant Alinea has won numerous accolades, and Achatz himself has won numerous awards from prominent culinary institutions and publications including the "Rising Star Chef of the Year Award" for 2003, "Best Chef in the United States" for 2008, and a 2012 "Who's Who Inductee" from the James Beard Foundation.


In October 2008, Grant Achatz and co-author Nick Kokonas published Alinea, a hardcover coffee table book featuring more than 100 of the restaurant's recipes. The book's narrative follows life in the kitchen for Achatz and his crew, and includes more than 400 behind-the-scenes photographs by Lara Kastner.

In June 2009, Achatz and Kokonas sold Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, their dual-voiced recount of their collaboration on Alinea and Achatz's battle with cancer to Gotham Books. The book was released on March 3, 2011.

Early life and career

Achatz's early culinary career included time spent working in his parents' Michigan restaurants as a teenager, followed by enrollment in The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Following graduation, Achatz landed a position at Thomas Keller's highly acclaimed restaurant, The French Laundry, in Yountville, California. Achatz spent four years at The French Laundry, rising to the position of sous chef. In 2001, he moved to the Chicago area to become the Executive Chef at Trio, in Evanston, Illinois, which at the time of his arrival had a four-star rating from the Mobil Travel Guide. Over the next three years, with Achatz at the helm, Trio's reputation soared, and in 2004 the restaurant was rewarded with a fifth star from Mobil, becoming one of just 13 restaurants so honored at the time.

In 2005, Achatz went out on his own, opening Alinea in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. The restaurant is located up the block from the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company and is housed in a modest gray brick building which bears no external markings beyond its street number. Inside, the restaurant has no bar, no lobby, and seats just 64 guests. Achatz serves diners a small-course tasting menu, running approximately 18 courses. After less than two years of operation, the Mobil Travel Guide bestowed its Five Star Award on Alinea, making Alinea one of just 16 restaurants nationwide to rate five stars for 2007.

In October 2006, Gourmet magazine named Alinea the best restaurant in America in its feature on "America's Top 50 Restaurants".

In 2007, Restaurant magazine added Alinea to its list of the 50 best restaurants in the world at number 36, the highest new entry of the year. In 2008, that publication moved Alinea up its list 15 spots, to number 21 in the world. Alinea cracked the top ten in 2009, moving up to number 10 in the world, and advanced to number 7 for 2010, when it was also the highest ranked North American restaurant honored. Alinea maintained its top North American Ranking for 2011, while moving up one position overall to 6th best restaurant in the world. In 2012, Alinea came down one spot on the list. Per Se gained the 6th place, thus making Alinea the 2nd best restaurant in the U.S. and 7th overall.

In November 2009, Achatz and his Alinea team designed the menu for Ikarus, a restaurant in Salzburg, Austria which brings in a top chef from a different restaurant each month to design the menu for that month and train the staff.

Alinea was awarded three stars in the 2011 Michelin Guide for Chicago. It was repeated in 2012 when Alinea was the only restaurant to receive three stars in the 2012 Michelin Guide for Chicago.

Achatz's other restaurants include Next, a restaurant that uses a unique ticketing system in Chicago, and Aviary, a bar.

Reservations for Achatz's restaurant, Next, are so sought after, that tickets could be found on Craigslist for up to $500 per person. In February 2012, Achatz held a Dutch Auction for tickets to Next's elBulli-inspired menu, raising over $275,000 for charity in just two days. Auction prices ranged from $4000 – $5000 for parties of two.

Personal Life

On July 23, 2007, Achatz announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth, which may have spread to his lymph nodes. Some of his colleagues and friends have expressed worry that radiotherapy or surgery may impair his sense of taste.

On December 18, 2007, Achatz announced that he was cancer-free. He credited an aggressive protocol of chemotherapy and radiation administered at the University of Chicago Medical Center for driving his cancer into full remission. The treatment regimen, administered under the direction of Drs. Vokes, Blair and Haraf at U of C, did not require radical invasive surgery on Achatz' tongue.


1. Best New Chefs, Food & Wine Magazine, 2002

2. Top Service Award (Chicago), Zagat Survey, 2006

3. Best Restaurant in America, Gourmet Magazine, 2006

4. 40 Top Chicago Restaurants Ever, Chicago Magazine, #1, 2010

5. AAA Five Diamond Award, AAA, 2007–2011

6. Mobil Five Star Award, Mobil Travel Guide, 2007–2010

7. Jean Banchet Award – Best Celebrity Chef, 2007

8. Jean Banchet Award – Best Fine Dining, 2007

9. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #36, 2007

10. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, Highest New Entry, 2007

11. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #21, 2008

12. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #10, 2009

13. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #7, 2010

14. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In North America, 2010

15. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #6, 2011

16. The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In North America, 2011

17. James Beard Foundation Award – Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2003

18. James Beard Foundation Award – Best Chef: Great Lakes, 2007

19. James Beard Foundation Award – Outstanding Chef, 2008

20. James Beard Foundation Award – Book Award: Cooking from a Professional Point of View, 2009

21. James Beard Foundation Award – Outstanding Service Award, 2010

22. Zagat Guide "Excellent" Ratings. 2008

23. Gayot Rating 18/20.

24. 3 Michelin Stars, 2011, 2012

25. The 2011 Time 100

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