Thursday, February 12, 2015

Grant Achatz and the Culinary Cutting Edge- One of the Best Chef in the United States


Grant Achatz is an American chef and restaurateur often identified as one of the leaders in molecular gastronomy (Culinary Physics) or progressive cuisine.

His restaurant in Chicago 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.

Grant Achatz is one of America's most admired and influential chefs. At his Chicago restaurants, he is reinventing both food and the dining experience.

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.

At Alinea, he builds on the molecular gastronomy pioneered by Spanish chef Ferran AdriĆ , pushing the boundaries of flavor, texture, and consistency ever outward. In October 2006, Gourmet magazine named Alinea the best restaurant in America in its feature on "America's Top 50 Restaurants". Alinea was awarded three Michelin 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. Next restaurant has received media interest due  its unique "ticketed" format where unlike a traditional reservation system, Next sells pre-priced tickets for specific dates and times in a similar fashion to the way theater, concert, and sporting event tickets are sold.

His restaurant Next offers themed menus for 12 weeks—inspired by early 20th-century Paris or Achatz's Michigan childhood—and experiments with theatricality, seasonality, and the senses.  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.

Achatz's work parallels that of any avant-garde artist, challenging preconceived notions in a relentless search for the new. Join him in this interesting video as he discusses his culinary and aesthetic vision with Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Unrelated Post: Interested in the science of cooking? Do you know about... Alginates in Food: Sodium Alginate Uses in Food?

Grant Achatz Bestseller Books

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.

His book Alinea received positive and favorable reviews from critics- to cite a review, " Reading his book, ALINEA, was an eye-opener for me. Showed me what could be done with food, presentation, etc. A MUST HAVE for anyone who is into the culinary arts!"

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.

Kokonas and Achatz have also released two digital cookbooks from Next Restaurant Paris: 1906, one on the Apple iBook platform, and one in a more universal PDF format. As in the style of the Alinea cookbook, both books provide the exact recipes used during the Paris 1906 and Tour of Thailand digital cookbook, without making adjustments for the average home cook. While the Paris 1906 book was released for purchase via iTunes, it boasted some interactive aspects.

Tour of Thailand was released on a pay-what-you-want model on Next's ticketing site with prices suggested at $6.99 and $12.99. There have been a few changes with the Thailand eBook: First of all, it's a 163MB PDF that can be used on any device.

Watch Grant Achatz teaching at Harvard University about molecular gastronomy or culinary physics... Reinventing Food Texture and Flavor- Lecture 6- Grant Achatz

Imagine how people eat at Alinea restaurant, watch this quick Youtube video...

Grant Achatz  Awards

Best New Chefs, Food & Wine Magazine, 2002
Best Restaurant in America, Gourmet Magazine, 2006
40 Top Chicago Restaurants Ever, Chicago Magazine, #1, 2010
AAA Five Diamond Award, AAA, 2007–2014
Mobil Five Star Award, Mobil Travel Guide, 2007–2010
Jean Banchet Award – Best Celebrity Chef, 2007
Jean Banchet Award – Best Fine Dining, 2007
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #36, 2007
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, Highest New Entry, 2007
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #21, 2008
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #10, 2009
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #7, 2010
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In North America, 2010
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #6, 2011
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant In North America, 2011
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, Chefs' Choice Award, 2013
The S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, #9, 2014
James Beard Foundation Award – Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2003
James Beard Foundation Award – Best Chef: Great Lakes, 2007
James Beard Foundation Award – Outstanding Chef, 2008
James Beard Foundation Award – Book Award: Cooking from a Professional Point of View, 2009
James Beard Foundation Award – Outstanding Service Award, 2010
Top Service Award (Chicago), Zagat Survey, 2006
Zagat Guide "Excellent" Rating, 2008
3 Michelin Stars, 2011
3 Michelin Stars, 2013
The 2011 Time 100
Alinea restaurant took top spot as the best restaurant in the world in 2014's annual poll by Elite Traveler magazine and the house of Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

Do you know that Nathan Myhrvold, another great American molecular gastronomy chef? Get to know him more it might help in your cooking expertise, watch this short video now... Chefs at Google: Nathan Myhrvold- Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking


Achatz, Grant. 2011. Current Biography Yearbook 2011. Ipswich, MA: H.W. Wilson. ISBN 9780824211219

Michelin Guide.

Pollack, Penny. 2010. Top 40 Chicago Restaurants Ever. Chicago Magazine

Wells, Pete. 2010. In Chicago, the Chef Grant Achatz Is Selling Tickets to His New Restaurant. The New York Times

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