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Achatz and Ruhlman Talking about Playing with Food...

March 06 2007 - 12:15 PM

This past Sunday at the Steppenwolf theatre, Grant Achatz of Alinea sat down with writer Michael Ruhlman. I was very intrigued by this conversation and was looking forward to hearing about the correlations between food and art, food as art, etc. The place was packed.

Grant is young. He’s been very successful for most, if not all, of his career. Safe to say people really like him. In an age where our most popular food personalities aren’t necessarily even chefs, Achatz certainly has a bright future. Considering his past that is a big statement.

Going from Trotter’s to French Laundry to that week at El Bulli –
which really did a number on him, running Trio and then opening Alinea
it’s interesting to note that his pedigree actually does involve risk taking.
Sure he worked at Trotter’s but he left Trotter’s… he left the
French Laundry. He doesn’t work at El Bulli. After hearing him and
having mulled over his restaurant I appreciate the amount of
consideration he affords his surroundngs and that he is successful
enough to build with those experiences.

At one point he mentioned that his plan (not his dream) was to open
the #1 restaurant in the country. He seems very goal oriented. It’s
kind of like John Kerry… who had been grooming himself for his whole
career to become the president. Except Achatz actually won the
election. He has a great work ethic. He’s as reverential to other chefs
as he is irreverent with his food. You could assume it’s all
calculated. It seems that chefs and the restaurant industry as a whole
fosters tradition and technique so much that anytime out of the box
process can function within these constraints it’s rewarded.

Considering El Bulli has been doing this for a long time, and that
the molecular gastronomy thing is almost in full swing an argument can
be made as to how out of the box the whole thing is in the first place
or how out of the box it should be. Assuming lines need to be crossed
to find any limit – have we found those lines? When every dish is
tested and successful are we as eaters being challenged. Do we even
want to be challeged? None of this was brought up. Achatz’s comment,
“Of course it has to taste good” answered the question to an extent.

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