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The Great Chefs from around the world
28

Chef Grant Achatz has been called a genius, a magician and the Beethoven of the culinary world. His Chicago restaurant, Alinea, is at the forefront of a food movement called "molecular gastronomy," which uses scientific, nontraditional techniques like liquid nitrogen and whimsical ingredients like pillows filled with lavender air to evoke sensory memories. In 2007, Gourmet magazine awarded him its highest honor—best restaurant of the year.

Grant Achatz started out at the age of 14 Grant Achatz was washing dishes and flipping eggs in the kitchen of his parents’ small Michigan town restaurant. But even at that youthful age, Achatz knew that he wanted to be the best at whatever he was going to do. Now 35, Achatz is at the helm of one of the most important restaurants in the world. The Alinea kitchen channels Achatz’s mastermind ingenuity and creativity.

The culinary virtuoso uses technique and technology to transform ingredients from humble to extraordinary (a potato was never so familiar and elusive) and assemble flavors in original but still successful ways—making him one of the most respected and closely followed chefs in the country.

The story of Achatz’s evolution as a chef is one of perseverance and—some might say—a bit of luck. After earning a degree at The Culinary Institute of America and working in a few fine dining kitchens in his home state, it was a copy of Charlie Trotter’s 1994 cookbook that sealed Achatz’s ambition to cook at the highest level. Achatz began the stagier circuit hitting Trotter's Chicago's landmark restaurant and visiting several of Europe's Michelin-starred restaurants. But Achatz hadn't found what he was seeking. It wasn't until a disquieted and slightly disillusioned Achatz serendipitously stumbled on a job posting for Thomas Keller's The French Laundry that the tide changed.

Achatz has spent the four years under Keller's wing, and learning, as Achatz puts it "how to cook and how to live life." Within two years, Achatz rose to the rank of sous chef at The French Laundry. And then it was off to Spain for a brief but revolutionary stage at Ferran Adria's el Bulli in 2000.

Achatz returned to the States ready to begin cooking on his own terms. At age 26, he accepted his first executive chef position at Trio in Evanston, IL and began to cultivate his own style. Toward the end of four successful years at Trio, a Chicago entrepreneur and fervent admirer of Achatz, Nick Kokonas, proposed a business partnership that would create a restaurant worthy of the young chef’s talent. Achatz, never shy of a challenge, decided to take up Kokonas on his offer and together they set about materializing Achatz’s vision; soon Alinea would change the Chicago restaurant scene and elevate the level of fine dining cooking across the United States.

Alinea today represents one of the most radical re-imaginings of fine food by any chef in American history and has propelled Grant Achatz to chef superstardom. Everything about his restaurant is unique, from the deconstructed food, unfamiliar flavour combinations and theatre to the tableware, with dishes served in and on all manner of implements: test tubes, cylinders, multi-layered bowls that come apart. It's boundary-shifting. IT has a 3 Star rating in Michelin Guide and voted the 6th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine.

In 2005, Achatz went out on his own, opening Alinea in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighbourhood. 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 choice of two small-course tasting menus, running 12 or 28 courses. After less than two years of operation, the Mobil Travel Guide bestowed its Five Star Award on Alinea, reaffirming its approval of Achatz and making Alinea one of just 16 restaurants nationwide to rate five stars for 2007.

Throughout Achatz's career, including a battle with tongue cancer in 2007 (which he defeated), courage and determination have always paid off. In its fourth year, Alinea is still booked for months ahead and continues to rank amongst the top restaurants in the world. With Alinea well established and a James Beard Award winning cookbook on store shelves, Achatz now allows himself more time to develop dish ideas, travel to gain inspiration and share ideas with fellow chefs, and plan for the future. But this chef isn't resting on his laurels: A new restaurant project is on his to-do list, and about this he is sure of one thing: “It’ll be a game-changer.” We expect nothing less.

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

Awards:
Best New Chefs, Food & Wine Magazine, 2002
Top Service Award (Chicago), Zagat Survey, 2006
Best Restaurant in America, Gourmet Magazine, 2006
40 Top Chicago Restaurants Ever, Chicago Magazine, #1, 2010
AAA Five Diamond Award, AAA, 2007–2011
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
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
Zagat Guide "Excellent" Ratings. 2008
Gayot Rating 18/20.
3 Michelin Stars, 2011.
The 2011 Time 100

Address: 1723 North Halsted, Chicago 60614, USA
Telephone: +1 312 867 0110
Web Site: www.alinea-restaurant.com

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