Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
ronnie_suburban

The Alinea Project - General Discussion

Recommended Posts

Fellow members of eGullet, it is with great pleasure that we launch this forum. Here is where we will discuss our continuing coverage of Alinea, as it progresses to its opening in early 2005.

We hope you enjoy the coverage and please...let's discuss :smile:

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Myself and the entire Alinea team are excited about this opportunity to document the development and creative process of a restaurant trying to push the limits.

Thank you to eGullet and the eGullet community for this opportunity.


--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maggie, while restaurant openings have been chronicled in various ways in the past, I'm quite sure nothing of this scope, depth, immediacy, and variety has ever been attempted. But talk is cheap: watch it develop and be amazed.

Chris, you're probably navigating through "New Posts" so you're missing the forum we're in. Start reading here: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=49670


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very, VERY excited about this.

Thanks to all for letting us be part of this process, and much good luck and best wishes to Grant, Nick, and the Alinea team!


2317/5000

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, this sounds like it will be really cool. Best of luck ChefG.


He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is planned for the scope of the project in terms of media types? Will this be online text and images only, streaming video, actual video that could potentially become a documentary, a flash movie involving mutant gerbils? Will the content primarily be here, or will some of it seep over to the Alinea website?

I think this is terrific - even if this has been done before, it certainly has never been done with a chef like chefg - for obvious reasons. :)


--adoxograph

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have a flash movie involving mutant gerbils in the works, but we're going to focus on text and images for the time being. Later on, we'll see what we can do within the limits of our resources and technology. If a good reason to use media outside our current repertoire -- such as the imminent need to document the comings and goings of mutant gerbils in real time -- presents itself, we'll try to pursue an appropriate course of action. But primarily the depth and breadth we're striving for are in the types of information we plan to present. Anybody can talk about a restaurant opening: we see it on Food TV, we read about openings in magazines and newspapers. But that's not true documentation. We're going to be a primary source, not a secondary source. This isn't a TV show or an article about the Alinea opening; this is the Alinea opening. We're looking to go deeper inside than anybody ever has before. We're going to live through this whole process with Grant Achatz and his team. Again, though, talk is cheap: watch and see what happens.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This will be very interesting.

Once again, Chef Grant, all the best in this endeavour.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is very, very exciting stuff. My hat's off to everyone involved with putting this project together!


View more of my food photography from the world's finest restaurants:

FineDiningPhotos.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My hat's off to everyone involved with putting this project together!

...on that note, I'd like to mention that eGullet member, yellow truffle, also provided a great deal of assistance with this leg of the project. :smile:

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was in college, a friend did a paracollege project on the WOW factor. Never mine that this was in the lazy, hazy, crazy college days of the 70's. The WOW factor had a most definitely different factor than I would attribute to this documentation.

WOW!

Are we the privileged or what?

Thanks to all who have made this happen.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Later today, Chef Achatz (chefg, here on eGullet) will be starting a few new topics (here in this forum), pertaining to specific areas of Alinea's development. He will also, as time allows, be available to field our follow-up questions on those topics.

Let's do our best to keep our questions focused on the given topics and have some fun. :smile:

=R=


"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is really exciting! Thanks so much for letting us all follow along in the process Chef Grant!

(Double thank you to the eG team making this possible.)


Barbara Laidlaw aka "Jake"

Good friends help you move, real friends help you move bodies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ridiculing the Avant-Garde:

Chef G, it occurs to me, looking at your incredibly ambitious plans for service pieces, which I assume will be echoed in the boldness of every other aspect of Alinea, that a lot of people -- especially media people who see themselves charged with representing average tastes -- are going to think it's all completely ridiculous. And they're likely to rake you over the coals, call you and your restaurant weird and bizarre, and have a lot of fun at your expense.

What can we do here, in terms of explaining what it is you're trying to do, to help preempt some of that kind of anti-creative thinking and behavior? Let's make sure the message of the culinary avant-garde gets out loud and clear. How do you explain yourself to the most jaded, cynical doubter?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see chef g indicated that Alinea would have a food lab. I wonder if the lab will have a separate staff, one solely dedicated to the discovery and documenting of new dishes, or will the entire staff be involved in a more freeform creative environment.


I'm not a biter, I'm a writer for myself and others...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is not a matter of "how mwny balls can you keep in the air?" This is a matter of how many things can you invent while getting ready to play with them. We at eGullet are extremely fortunate to be able to observe and participate in such a series of projects. Thank you all for the chance to see this from the beginning. The vision and creativity on all sides of the equation is litterly awe inspiring to me. Onlu at eGullet would we have this opportunity. Thanks again

colestove

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for giving us a ring side seat as Alinea comes into existence.

I wonder if there's been any thought as to putting all this documentation into a book when it's completed. I think this would be a wonderful addition to any library.


"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ridiculing the Avant-Garde:

Chef G, it occurs to me, looking at your incredibly ambitious plans for service pieces, which I assume will be echoed in the boldness of every other aspect of Alinea, that a lot of people -- especially media people who see themselves charged with representing average tastes -- are going to think it's all completely ridiculous. And they're likely to rake you over the coals, call you and your restaurant weird and bizarre, and have a lot of fun at your expense.

What can we do here, in terms of explaining what it is you're trying to do, to help preempt some of that kind of anti-creative thinking and behavior? Let's make sure the message of the culinary avant-garde gets out loud and clear. How do you explain yourself to the most jaded, cynical doubter?

I have to confess to being one of the people who had some fun at the expense of wd-50 (although I liked much of what I was served), but Chef G's service pieces seem to make a lot more sense to me. His own explanation is that they are "based on function as the priority as opposed to aesthetics". And I think he's right. The fools are the ones who are giving aesthetics such free reign that function gets lost.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How do you explain yourself to the most jaded, cynical doubter?

Without experiencing the consumption of my food with the support of these pieces it is difficult to articulate responses to the questions you posed. Because we are taking about an experience….an altered emotional state that is different with every guest…talking about “it” is unjust. That is my explanation to the doubter.

Chef G, it occurs to me, looking at your incredibly ambitious plans for service pieces, which I assume will be echoed in the boldness of every other aspect of Alinea,
Chef, to what degree do you feel you will need to use more conventional serviceware in conjunction with these new items? Will most/all/some/a few courses utilize the new serviceware? How important is it for you to "cushion" the shock of such newness with some traditional approaches?

This is untrue. Yes we are creating a container that will work in synergy with the cuisine. As of now there are key aspects of the design that will deliver emotional triggers….but our priority is to create a seamless, exciting, comfortable and expressive experience of dining. That being said there are characteristics of the restaurant that will be “normal”. It has been decided that not every element of the restaurant can be new and challenging. When we think of dining at the highest level certain adjectives come to mind…..comfort, beauty, opulence, sophistication, sensuality, and elegance to name a few. In order to achieve these, there are certain sets of parameters that are placed on the design due to the guest’s ideal of these expectations. However we have more creative freedom on the table service. It is on this stage where we will express…the guests meanwhile will be watching from comfortable chairs.

It is not our intention to abandon all “traditional” serviceware. We create the new pieces because existing pieces do not support the cuisine functionally. If Alinea creates a dish that is best suited to a plate than we will pick a piece of china that will support it. At the time we left Trio the average diner would receive 13 courses, of those 5 to 6 would be presented on special serviceware. I expect about the same ratio at Alinea.

I think the cushioning you speak of is the food itself. The antenna held three basic elements: smoked salmon, pineapple and soy sauce; the eye only two…verjus and fresh thyme.. …tripod only one…. frozen hibiscus tea.

…a lot of people -- especially media people who see themselves charged with representing average tastes -- are going to think it's all completely ridiculous. And they're likely to rake you over the coals, call you and your restaurant weird and bizarre, and have a lot of fun at your expense.

What can we do here, in terms of explaining what it is you're trying to do, to help preempt some of that kind of anti-creative thinking and behavior?

For these I ask members of eGullet community that have experienced my cuisine to comment on the effectiveness of the service pieces. How it made them feel and if they thought it was ridiculous. I can’t think of too many media people that have specifically commented on them with the exception of David Shaw in his LA Times feature “I had plenty of room left for the final desserts, including my favorite-which came in a glass tube…You hold the tube upright above your mouth and let the richly flavored and textured mixture slide over your tongue…” As new as these presentation are one thing remains of the highest priority…..the food has to taste good. If we fail as cooks the entire game is lost, it even becomes embarassing, but if we can deliver good tasting food in a way that heightens it’s emotional impact, then we have not only won…..we’ve won big.


--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ridiculing the Avant-Garde:

Chef G, it occurs to me, looking at your incredibly ambitious plans for service pieces, which I assume will be echoed in the boldness of every other aspect of Alinea, that a lot of people -- especially media people who see themselves charged with representing average tastes -- are going to think it's all completely ridiculous. And they're likely to rake you over the coals, call you and your restaurant weird and bizarre, and have a lot of fun at your expense.

What can we do here, in terms of explaining what it is you're trying to do, to help preempt some of that kind of anti-creative thinking and behavior? Let's make sure the message of the culinary avant-garde gets out loud and clear. How do you explain yourself to the most jaded, cynical doubter?

I can see very little that can be done as far as preventing the above mentioned reaction, except letting the critics actually experience it. Alinea may not fit (I don’t believe it is intended to) what could be called the ‘average taste’ as far as restaurant standards go. But that doesn’t mean the reaction to it has to be a negative one. As long as one is willing to relax and let the standards be challenged.

As far as the service pieces go, we are trying to grow on what we learn about food and food service with all its aspects, in a direction that makes sense to us - one that opens a few more doors and perhaps teaches us a little more in return. We aren’t trying to make a gesture just for the sake of being interesting, we’re trying to contemplate and explore the possibilities of food service to increase the impact of the food itself. That should earn us the benefit of the doubt.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chef Achatz and the entire Alinea team are in a very opportunistic position: they have a vision of where they want their cuisine and overall dining experience to be and at the same Chef Achatz has already been accepted into the mainstream through his accomplishments at Trio.

We can correlate this to the Beatles back in the 1960's. The Beatles became very popular through their songs "I want to hold your hand" and "Yesterday", but in 1967 they wanted to do something drastically different. The Beatles used their cemented place in the mainstream and created Sgt. Peppers - a very different record than they ever have created up to that point. If the Beatles had not already ascertained their reputation through their earlier work and just started making music in the style of Sgt. Peppers they may not have been adored as much as they were.

I feel the Beatles story relates to what Alinea is attempting to do. Their vision is a bold one - to push the envelope of a dining experience that has been the same for a very long time. Their work is going to be advant-garde, it's going to be different, and it is going to force people to think in ways that they have never done before. Also, from a locality standpoint I believe that it is going to be one of only two restaurants attempting this kind of culinary evolution in Chicago- Moto being the other.

I think Alinea is going turn out to be a restaurant that is going to lead a culinary revolution in the United States and I also believe that their work is going to be widely admired by critics and diners. The critics have already a taste - no pund intended - of Chef Achatz's vision ( a taste that they totally loved showed by all of the recognition that Trio achieved under his reign).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of the imaginative and whimsical service pieces just made me smile. Congratulations to the team for their creativity and sensitivity in experimenting to find these unique combinations of new tastes and new ways to present them.

And thank you to everyone involved for this very special window on the entire project.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By newchef
      So I've now found myself at the water's edge of Modernist Cuisine.  Specifically, using sodium citrate for emulsifying all kinds of cheeses.  What I'm after is making an emulsified Parmesan sauce as well as another emulsified cheese sauce (most likely using Cheddar or Colby) that I can freeze and use later.  I'm a single guy and am no stranger of tweaking recipes for freezing but I haven't done it for modernist stuff yet.  I'd love to make a big batch of cheese sauce, freeze it into ice cubes for up to 3 months or so, and then take a few cubes out to thaw on a weeknight and toss with pasta, drizzle over veggies, etc.
       
      I looked at the modernist cuisine FAQ and saw this specific post about the cheese sauce that is "probably" freeze-able because it uses something called carageenan.  Has anyone been able to freeze sauce and keep it frozen for, say, a few months?  And not have to use carageenan?
       
      Thanks!
    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...