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ronnie_suburban

The Alinea Project - General Discussion

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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.

Call me crazy, I think that the revolution has already begun. Alinea, chefg's work at Trio, MOTO, WD-50, etc... There is an amazing body of young talent that has really begun pushing the envelope. chefg, IMO, is at the forefront in his thinking and execution. I have yet to eat at MOTO, but of the other places the WOW factor was huge. Somewhere else someone mentioned the fun in dining, and I had an experience at Trio that makes me smile when I think about it.

IMO, what might be the most frustrating thing for critics with this revolution is that the ones leading it have incredibly solid backgrounds and are using the best food stuffs from around the world. Last year eating at WD-50 and Trio, as a chef, I ate food that was as incredible in its composition as it was in its execution. That, to me, really gives this movement credibility.

I don't know where I wanted to go with this, but I am looking forward to the whole Alinea project both in the e-world and when it finally comes to fruition.

Godspeed to you chefg.

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I have a question about the structure of the kitchen work/prep.

It seems from reading about people's experiences at Trio and seeing pictures, that a lot of the courses are done prior to service. I was wondering if Alinea would be the same way, and how much of the menu items would be cooked a la minute.

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chefg   
I have a question about the structure of the kitchen work/prep.

It seems from reading about people's experiences at Trio and seeing pictures, that a lot of the courses are done prior to service. I was wondering if Alinea would be the same way, and how much of the menu items would be cooked a la minute.

That is not really true. Of course, as with any well organized high level kitchen, a great deal of prep has to be in place in order to be successful, especially with several intricate dishes to be served each service. At Trio we did prep for the service only, in other words very little food carried over from day to day. The exception being large items like veal stock and braised foodstuffs like artichokes.We did not employ a prep team, each chef would come in around 10 am and be responsible for all of the items on their station. For the majority of the mise en place it was estimated what we would need for the given night, if any remained it was either consumed by the staff or discarded. In fact, I am sure most of the cooks could tell a few stories about sprinting to the whole foods to purchase an item because not only did we not over prep, but we ran it very tight on the food and came into the building everyday.

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I have a question about the structure of the kitchen work/prep.

It seems from reading about people's experiences at Trio and seeing pictures, that a lot of the courses are done prior to service. I was wondering if Alinea would be the same way, and how much of the menu items would be cooked a la minute.

That is not really true. Of course, as with any well organized high level kitchen, a great deal of prep has to be in place in order to be successful, especially with several intricate dishes to be served each service. At Trio we did prep for the service only, in other words very little food carried over from day to day. The exception being large items like veal stock and braised foodstuffs like artichokes.We did not employ a prep team, each chef would come in around 10 am and be responsible for all of the items on their station. For the majority of the mise en place it was estimated what we would need for the given night, if any remained it was either consumed by the staff or discarded. In fact, I am sure most of the cooks could tell a few stories about sprinting to the whole foods to purchase an item because not only did we not over prep, but we ran it very tight on the food and came into the building everyday.

so you are saying things like courses in the clear tubes are all done to order? Or are they just made prior to service in numbers that are estimated to be what you would need for that service?


Edited by Bicycle Lee (log)

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chefg   
I have a question about the structure of the kitchen work/prep.

It seems from reading about people's experiences at Trio and seeing pictures, that a lot of the courses are done prior to service. I was wondering if Alinea would be the same way, and how much of the menu items would be cooked a la minute.

That is not really true. Of course, as with any well organized high level kitchen, a great deal of prep has to be in place in order to be successful, especially with several intricate dishes to be served each service. At Trio we did prep for the service only, in other words very little food carried over from day to day. The exception being large items like veal stock and braised foodstuffs like artichokes.We did not employ a prep team, each chef would come in around 10 am and be responsible for all of the items on their station. For the majority of the mise en place it was estimated what we would need for the given night, if any remained it was either consumed by the staff or discarded. In fact, I am sure most of the cooks could tell a few stories about sprinting to the whole foods to purchase an item because not only did we not over prep, but we ran it very tight on the food and came into the building everyday.

so you are saying things like courses in the clear tubes are all done to order? Or are they just made prior to service in numbers that are estimated to be what you would need for that service?

Nothing would ever be pre-plated. One end of the tubes are set in flavored agar prior to service to "cap" an end, but they are filled and the second end is capped to order. Of course all of the foodstuffs to be placed in the tubes would be prepared during the day IE the tapioca, sorrel coulis, flavored gelatin...however the foie gras puree is made to order.


Edited by chefg (log)

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Talk about being the proverbial "fly on the wall"!

This could well turn out to be one of the most captivating things done on the internet, especially for those with more than just a passing interest in cutting edge cuisine.

The potential here is beyond belief, and this is going to be one hell of a ride! I'm glad I'm along for it!

Good luck and Godspeed to all involved.

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The interior design of the building has been given a tremendous amount of thought and will entail its own topic section.... likely to begin in a few weeks.

Safe to say that the same level of detailed planning is being applied to the bathrooms as to the rest of the building.

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bigorre   

I would be interested to know what kind of wine-spirits matching one can expect during a meal at alinea.Knowing that many courses would be served and in bite size portions, is there a special approach concerning the wine-spirit matching during the meal...thanxs....

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chefg   
I would be interested to know what kind of wine-spirits matching one can expect during a meal at alinea.Knowing that many courses would be served and in bite size portions, is there a special approach concerning the wine-spirit matching during the meal...thanxs....

We will in time devote a whole topic to the wine program. I suspect that our sommelier Joe Catterson will contribute his philosophy to the food and wine pairing at Alinea.

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A brief story about Alinea's web presence appeared in today's Chicago Sun-Times...

Chef Grant Achatz is giving diners a taste of what to expect at his new restaurant -- but he's not doing it with food.

Achatz has come up with the culinary equivalent of an online movie trailer for Alinea, scheduled to open in January

Click here for a link to the complete article.

Alinea's web site

=R=

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docsconz   

Cool "trailer". too bad there wasn't a mention of the Alinea project on eGullet in the article.

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TJHarris   

ChefG,

I am curious as to the design of the kitchen space and what percentage of the overall square footage of the restaurant will be devoted to the BOH. Will it be possible at some point as opening gets closer that you might be able to upload floor plans for us techno geeks to peruse?

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chefg   
ChefG, 

I am curious as to the design of the kitchen space and what percentage of the overall square footage of the restaurant will be devoted to the BOH. Will it be possible at some point as opening gets closer that you might be able to upload floor plans for us techno geeks to peruse?

Tobin:

We are working on gethering material for a kitchen design post. Within that post I plan to explain the kitchen layout, why we did what we did and go into great detail as far as equipment purchased and its intended use. I can tell you that the kitchen will be 980 sq. feet.

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I can tell you that the kitchen will be 980 sq. feet

What is the total square footage of the restaurant? Is there only going to be the main kitchen, or will you have additional prep area?

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The restaurant is approximately 5,600 square feet over two floors and spread among 4 dining areas. There is also a 1,500 sq. ft. basement which will be finished out and will hold wine storage and offices. There will be a second floor service area of good size, but all prep will be done in the kitchen proper.

Chef Achatz is preparing a significant post on the kitchen layout, and we will also have a topic devoted to the design of the restaurant space -- and which will likely include commentary by the architect and designer.

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chefg   
The restaurant is approximately 5,600 square feet over two floors and spread among 4 dining areas.  There is also a 1,500 sq. ft. basement which will be finished out and will hold wine storage and offices.  There will be a second floor service area of good size, but all prep will be done in the kitchen proper.

Chef Achatz is preparing a significant post on the kitchen layout, and we will also have a topic devoted to the design of the restaurant space -- and which will likely include commentary by the architect and designer.

What is the total square footage of the restaurant?  Is there only going to be the main kitchen, or will you have additional prep area?

Total sqare feet of the building is as follows:

Kitchen: 980sq.ft.

Dining spaces: 2200 sq.ft.

Basement (used for cellar and offices): 1500 sq.ft.

Remainder is composed of bathrooms, entryway, service areas ect..: 1000 sq.ft.

There will only be one kitchen, on the first floor.

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TJHarris   

Chef,

Thank you and I will look forward to further details.


Edited by TJHarris (log)

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Not sure if this is the best place to post this, but since this is where the Grantophiles are gathering... :wink:

From today's Mercury News, an interesting story about how scent affects the dining experience. Of course, chefg's considered the authority on this subject...

Before leaving Trio this spring, [Chef Grant] Achatz re-created the smell of fall for a pheasant dish by having a server pour boiling water at the table into a bowl filled with hay, leaves, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin and apple slices. And to bring the smoke-fire smell of the kitchen into the dining room, he lit applewood branches on fire, blew them out and put them on a covered plate. At the table, the cover was lifted, and the smoke drifted out, amplifying the meaty aroma of the accompanying dish of rib-eye, smoked beef tongue and morels.

``Smell pulls on emotional triggers,'' Achatz says. ``With the autumn dish, people would say, `This reminds me of when I was with my grandpa on a hayride.' The smoke dish always conjured up a campfire. It became more than just food; it became a connection to their past.''

Cooking scents - Adding Aromas Elevates Dining to an Art Form

=R=

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Well, I've been watching this for awhile now, and it has begun to manifest at my table and in my kitchen in various ways... It's fascinating and I can't help but be inspired by the creative process at work here. I find most satisfying your illustration of one of the serving appareils designed in an earlier thread being put to actual use in the presentation of what's being developed (the pbj with stem in the food lab thread).

It is affecting me so much in fact, it's been on my mind almost constantly over the past few weeks. My husband is wondering if I am alright at dinner time, actually. :huh: I have two questions -

The other night I found myself discussing this with some people at a dinner party. There seem to be two opinions here in France, some completely optimistic and enthusiastically supporting this trend in food preparation, presentation, and experimentation. These are the people who follow restaurant trends carefully and have substantial experience in fine dining. These are the people who have learned, through experience, that they can achieve a state of implicit trust in a chef to create their dining experience. The other are people who are suspect of what they perceive to be industrial processes simply done on a small scale, and even venture to say that they not only resist this concept strongly, but it smacks of manipulation, and they'll have none of it. These are the two poles I encounter as I discuss this with the people in my entourage. My question to you is: Are you prepared for an onslaught of general suspicion, and in what ways are you preparing to explain this to a mainstream public (represented in the press) who may not understand your approach or have the supporting context available to them?

My second question: There are certain food combinations that evoke strong sense memory response in specific cultures. These combinations are present in an emotional memory bank we carry with us for all of our lives. The PBJ calls to mind a plethora of associations for me as an American. However, present this to a person who never come to a full understanding of the association of pbj and childhood, and he's relying purely on taste. When you test these preparations, are you testing them on people with different cultural backgrounds, or is this meant to be an exclusively American, bref uniquely American sensual experience?

Your devoted fan,

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chefg   
My question to you is:  Are you prepared for an onslaught of general suspicion, and in what ways are you preparing to explain this to a mainstream public (represented in the press) who may not understand your approach or have the supporting context available to them? 

My second question:  There are certain food combinations that evoke strong sense memory response in specific cultures.  These combinations are present in an emotional memory bank we carry with us for all of our lives.  The PBJ calls to mind a plethora of associations for me as an American.  However, present this to a person who never come to a full understanding of the association of pbj and childhood, and he's relying purely on taste.  When you test these preparations, are you testing them on people with different cultural backgrounds, or is this meant to be an exclusively American, bref uniquely American sensual experience? 

To some degree we have been dealing with this suspicion for a few years now. Our cuisine is too personal, too expressive to please everyone. Some will love it, some will dislike it, and some will love to hate it. And that is OK. Because of the reasons I listed above I think the best thing to do is let the food speak. The experience is not only personal to the creator but even more so for the guest. There is no way I could tell you how you would feel after a certain course or a particular meal. I can verbally articulate the “style” in which we create, but is that really an effective way to communicate this medium if it is judged on the interaction with an individual?

Honestly, I don’t view what we do as that different. I don’t see why it requires special explanation. Our goals are the same as any team trying to provide the best experience at the highest level. If we choose an unconventional method to help us make that personalized experience why should it matter? The foundation is there and nobody can take that away from us.

The fact that some of the more whimsical dishes highlight Americana is, of course because I am American and we are in America. We also play in the same manner with other cultures cuisines, having based dishes on Thai ice tea, “Hassenpheffer” of rabbit and Sri Lankan Eggplant pickle to name a few. I would imagine that most of the diners did not fully understand or have memory reference to some of those dishes, but I think unfamiliarity can be just as powerful as comfort. And we still have the characteristics that make the dish desirable on a technical level, even if certain cultural references are lost.

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Chef,

It's still weeks before the opening, yet you and Alinea received a "special mention" in Travel + Leisure Magazine's list of "Best New American Restaurants 2004"...

CHEF TO WATCH During his three-year stint heading the kitchen of Trio, the Thomas Keller-trained wunderkind Grant Achatz got it all: four stars from the Chicago Tribune, the title of James Beard Rising Star, and fans who clamored for his infusions and outré ice creams (olive oil, anyone?). At Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-0110; dinner for two $125), due to open next month [January, 2005], Achatz will experiment with savory truffle bonbons (frozen on the outside, liquid inside), freeze-dried strawberries encased in foie gras tempered with cocoa butter, serving them in an equally cutting-edge space. Curious for a taste of the future? Start calling for reservations.

...does such coverage make you feel any additional pressure? I thought it was particularly exciting to see Alinea make the 2004 list when it won't even open until 2005 :smile:

=R=

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