Interviewed July 2011
Grant Achatz is chef/owner of Alinea, a restaurant at the cutting edge of modern cooking in Chicago. Thanks to Lara Kastner for permission to use her portrait of Mr Achatz.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
Since I was 5. My mother and father owned family style restaurants since I was four, and before that my grandmother had a small diner that I helped in when I was very young. I worked in my parents restaurant all the way through high school until I graduated and then immediately went to culinary school.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
I attended the Culinary Institute of America in 1994, directly after graduating high school. After that I worked under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry for 4 years. It was here that I found a mentor and really learned to not only cook but run a world class restaurant.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
We call our cooking progressive American.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
Delicious food, great service and to tell a story.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
We have a number of dishes that Alinea has been known for, but I do not have a signature dish. The idea is to create what others what know as signature dishes...and then kill them.
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
I love many restaurants of all types. I like crappy pizza, I love el Bulli and Per Se. I like cooking at my house for myself. The idea is I love food, and the beauty of it, is....in the world of food, there are many many opportunities to have a meaningful experience.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
(no answer provided)
What would be your “last request” dish?
A very cold glass of water.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Be an architect.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?