Alinea Ė Grant Achatz

Book Review by Franz Scheurer

 

Alinea, a book by Grant Achatz with the input of Nick Kokonas, Mark McClusky, Michael Nagrant, Michael Ruhlman and Jeffrey Steingarten, designed by Crucial Detail and Naissance with photography by Lara Kastner is an exceptional endeavour, although the people involved read like the rolling credits of a movie.

 

Alinea; itís Chicago, not Hollywood but it might just be the most progressive restaurant in the world; pretty much on the same level as Ferran Adriŗís El Bulli.

 

Together with a young go-getter businessman, Nick Kokonas, Grant Achatz built a restaurant where invention, creativity and surprise would drive the food.

 

To understand the tenacity and determination of Grant Achatz it might be illustrative to understand that he was diagnosed with squalors cell carcinoma of the mouth; a cancer that was so aggressive and advanced that doctors expected palliative rather than curative treatment. They didnít factor in Grantís will and determination. He attacked the disease, with the same stamina and energy he brought to the restaurant, enrolled in a clinical trial with experimental treatment, and surprised his doctors by being pronounced cancer free a year later. Despite hair loss, nausea and other side effects of chemotherapy and radiation Grant only missed 14 out of more than 100 services in that time. Grant Achatz is a remarkable man with a remarkable talent and the will to make his vision a reality. He succeeds.

 

The book is part cookbook, part restaurant promotion and it is at home as a coffee table book (with fantastic photography throughout) as it is in a professional kitchen where imitation is the purest form of flattery. Make no mistake: this is a chefís book! This is not for the home kitchen or even the talented home cook. Itís heavy going, assuming a lot of knowledge on the side of the reader, a heavy investment in kitchen equipment and a thorough understanding of the applied science. Nothing Grant Achatz produces is ordinary. In fact ordinary would probably be the ultimate insult to Grantís creativity.

 

I loaned the review copy to Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt of Bentley Restaurant & Bar to get their reaction:

 

ďFor me the book is as extraordinary as it is heavy. It is obviously not for the home chef. His passion and desire are obvious. It is a great insight into how restaurants at this level are offering a true gastronomic experienceĒ. (Nick)

The book is a restaurant promotion book and very cutting edge cuisine. The recipes are detailed for the professional cook (a good thing in my opinion). This book gives away many techniques, formulas and secrets which Grant Achatz and his team work so hard for on a daily basis. It is inspiring story from a dedicated, creative and talented chef and demonstrates the drive and commitment it takes to produce his high standards of cooking. (Brent)

 

Amen!

 

If youíre a professional chef, cooking cutting edge food and toying with unexpected ways of presentation, then this book is for you. Itís also ridiculously cheap: AU $65, distributed in Australian by Simon & Schuster.

ISBN 13 978 1 58008 928 9