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Chef Grant Achatz: An Alinea Overnight Update


ronnie_suburban
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That being said what if Alinea decided to cook classically for a short period of time? A couple of months ago a regular guest came in. Being that he had just eaten the tour a week prior we decided to cook one course very differently. For his “Honeycomb course” …instead of the Opah we roasted a whole lobe of Foie Gras…..it was beautiful….it was classical…and 17 cooks stood there in awe as Chef Peters portioned the lobe for four people….one saying…”why can’t you buy that anywhere…I would love to eat that”

Is it about cooking? Or about cooking style? Can one restaurant be spontaneous with its style?

Mark me down for a table for 4, whole roasted Foie sounds good to me

Molto E

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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ChefG,

If a cook wants to learn in depth of different aspects of dining and decides to step out of a kitchen to work in other areas such as wine, coffees, farming...etc. How much does it affect a cook's ability when returning to a kitchen and continuing their career? Would it just be overall better to do those things durring free time while maintaining a kitchen job or fully get into whatever they want to learn?

Thank You

You are young, so a brief hiatus from cooking would not hurt you at all, and probably would be beneficial. My time spent at the winery was far more beneficial than I could have ever imagined.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better?

Everyone has to admit there is something unique/special to a tasting menu format that an ala carte or tapas/sushi style service cannot provide.

Isn't that why you have Alinea. Restaurant x would support Alinea, but the menu structure is different. Alinea would be the special and restaurant x be the regular. I can't see myself having everyday be a special day. Though I could have many regular days.
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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better?

Everyone has to admit there is something unique/special to a tasting menu format that an ala carte or tapas/sushi style service cannot provide.

Isn't that why you have Alinea. Restaurant x would support Alinea, but the menu structure is different. Alinea would be the special and restaurant x be the regular. I can't see myself having everyday be a special day. Though I could have many regular days.

But why would restaurant X be everyday? In fact, by saying that it would be everyday, aren't we diminishing the dishes that once made Trio and Alinea not everyday? Why can't the two concepts exist just like the French Laundry and Per Se exist? Why wouldn't it be more attractive than that, being that no dishes would overlap at the two restaurants? Why can't this concept just bring forth two great four star restaurants?

Edited by chefg (log)

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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Any plans on opening a restaurant in Las Vegas?

No, San Francisco, Shanghai, Chicago

if you hurry up, i'll meet you in shanghai later this year! :raz:

if you were to open in shanghai, do you anticipate that you'll have to change your approach/technique/ingredients to tailor to the preferences of eastern palates? or, do you expect that your food, as it is now, is "international" enough to be a success abroad? on the flip side of that question, perhaps it could also be a question of whether you feel foreign palates are receptive to outside cuisines/approaches?

u.e.

Having never been to that part of the world I can’t really answer that question with confidence. But from what diners from Tokyo and Hong Kong have said, the cuisine of Alinea has several aesthetic and philosophical similarities of the food in these countries. Or at least similarities in social and gastronomic traditions. Certainly we embrace the sweet savory balance much like some the regions in China, and one can find several similarities to the experience that is offered in the Japanese Kaiseki meals.[...]

So far, I've just been reading this thread with interest. I haven't been to Chicago since 1997 and have yet to try avant garde cuisine of the type you create (plus, I don't think I'd spend enough to try it). But I do have a suggestion in response to this:

I think you have an assignment, should you choose to give it to yourself: To visit that part of the world and try some of the cuisine. Based on what I know about your cuisine from reading what you and others have to say and looking at photos, I feel very confident that you would be fascinated and inspired by aspects of East Asian cuisines. In particular, since you are planning to open a restaurant in Shanghai -- a very good move, as Shanghai is really the fastest-growing center of business and commerce in the world today -- you would undoubtedly benefit from seeking out Shanghainese cuisine, which is a great cuisine, indeed. Do you have to change your cuisine to appeal to the wealthy clientele of expats and some millionaire Chinese businessmen who are probably the likely audience for your restaurant (it seemed to me, from observing some comings and goings, that that was the clientele for Jean-George's restaurant in Shanghai)? I doubt it. I think that anything modern and cutting-edge has a very good chance of doing well in a city with a bizarre, futuristic skyline (which I like) that's being added to at an unbelievable pace. But will your cuisine change after you've tried Shanghainese food? Given how much you respond to the pleasurable elements you perceive in so much of the other food you've eaten, I believe so. And you'll have a wonderful time doing all that research!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Chef Achatz,

If there is some question about the desire of people to either, go back to revisit old dishes, or simply want to experience past classics for the first time, why not do a 3rd menu option for a limited time consisting of ~10 courses of past classics. It would be interesting to see how many would elect to do this menu. I would think it would be more than the 10% of those ordering the 6 course menu.

If I knew that for one or two months a year, Alinea offerered a tasting of past classics, you could definitely count me in.

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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better?

Everyone has to admit there is something unique/special to a tasting menu format that an ala carte or tapas/sushi style service cannot provide.

Isn't that why you have Alinea. Restaurant x would support Alinea, but the menu structure is different. Alinea would be the special and restaurant x be the regular. I can't see myself having everyday be a special day. Though I could have many regular days.

But why would restaurant X be everyday? In fact, by saying that it would be everyday, aren't we diminishing the dishes that once made Trio and Alinea not everyday? Why can't the two concepts exist just like the French Laundry and Per Se exist? Why wouldn't it be more attractive than that, being that no dishes would overlap at the two restaurants? Why can't this concept just bring forth two great four star restaurants?

I think one of the (many) reasons why FL and PS works is that is not in the same area. I was under the assumption that restaurant X would be in Chicago. Perhaps one intention for opening up Bouchon is to take in the others who are unable to make it to the FL. Then maybe a restaurant Y is in order.

Anyways...

While you have the mike, care to comment on what is store after the break. Any major (or minor) changes? How about mid year? Anniversary? Care to share an outlined plan of the coming months. I ask, so that docsconz (and other non-locals) can plan out their Chicago visits.

...

Perhaps a diner has come to the restaurant and said, "today is my (or someone in the group) birthday." And you know they are expecting a cake with candles or something. Assuming that the before is true, what have you done, if any, to oblige.

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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

of course it wouldn't be the same. to me, that would be the point of a second restaurant. when i want the alinea experience, i go to alinea.

i can't tell you how often i've been in the middle of a tasting menu and have said to myself "i wish i could have another order of this dish." it's natural in the progression of a tasting menu that some dishes will be favored over others. to have a restaurant where I can choose dishes from the Trio/Alinea repertoire which fit my palate best appeals to me as a diner. Also, there are times when I have neither the time nor the money to spend on a huge tasting menu. being able to control the cost and time involved also appeals to me as a diner. as a chef, you may feel differently.

mike

edit: this assumes restaurant x is in chicago.

Edited by mikeczyz (log)
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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better?

Everyone has to admit there is something unique/special to a tasting menu format that an ala carte or tapas/sushi style service cannot provide.

Isn't that why you have Alinea. Restaurant x would support Alinea, but the menu structure is different. Alinea would be the special and restaurant x be the regular. I can't see myself having everyday be a special day. Though I could have many regular days.

But why would restaurant X be everyday? In fact, by saying that it would be everyday, aren't we diminishing the dishes that once made Trio and Alinea not everyday? Why can't the two concepts exist just like the French Laundry and Per Se exist? Why wouldn't it be more attractive than that, being that no dishes would overlap at the two restaurants? Why can't this concept just bring forth two great four star restaurants?

I think one of the (many) reasons why FL and PS works is that is not in the same area. I was under the assumption that restaurant X would be in Chicago. Perhaps one intention for opening up Bouchon is to take in the others who are unable to make it to the FL. Then maybe a restaurant Y is in order.

Anyways...

While you have the mike, care to comment on what is store after the break. Any major (or minor) changes? How about mid year? Anniversary? Care to share an outlined plan of the coming months. I ask, so that docsconz (and other non-locals) can plan out their Chicago visits.

We will re-open with the basically the same menu we closed with. This will allow us a smooth transition back into the flow and able us to offer the best possible experience to the guests dining shortly after we return. I expect major changes to happen two to three weeks after the re-opening.

Actually Nick and I were just talking about the first anniversary today. Inspired by some of your comments, and a few of our past thoughts, we thought it would be nice to open the restaurant up to an “open house” type of venue for the first anniversary. The restaurant would be set up with several stations serving different unique bites….with any luck maybe Martin will be able to develop several pieces of service ware that would effectively serve people in a group setting, similar to the way the mass antenna did at the MCA event. Rather than have a conventional seated dinner on May 4th 2006 that limits us to include only 70 guests…why not make it a larger affair….where several hundred people can come and celebrate our birthday…and sample some innovative cuisine, specially designed for a group setting. The guests get to mingle with the chefs and sample the food in an environment that is different than the normal Alinea experience. And the proceeds go to a charity.

I guess we have four months to figure it all out.

--

Grant Achatz

Chef/Owner

Alinea

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The one thing that does bother me about really spicy food in the context of dining is how it reacts with alcohol. To pair wines with a very spicy food is difficult….obviously the heat is intensified by the alcohol to the point where flavor is lost. I guess for that particular course we could pair with a non-alcoholic beverage…but….

On that note, what are the chances that non-alcoholic beverage pairings will be developed on a regular basis? As brought up elsewhere in eGullet, many of us who like to dine cannot tolerate alcohol, but would like the option of enriching our dining experiences, as one does with wine.

I'm probably not headed your way till the summer, so you have plenty of time to consider it! :biggrin:

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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better? . . .

It's hard to say. After so relatively few, there's very little drop-off between experiences. But after being able to order them at will, I'm not sure I'd be able to say the same. The first time is complete surprise. . . and delight. The second time automatically references the first time and brings with it an emotional component that cannot be experienced the first time around. It delivers its own nostalgia. The surprise is gone, but the experience may be more savorable.

=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

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That being said what if Alinea decided to cook classically for a short period of time? A couple of months ago a regular guest came in. Being that he had just eaten the tour a week prior we decided to cook one course very differently. For his “Honeycomb course” …instead of the Opah we roasted a whole lobe of Foie Gras…..it was beautiful….it was classical…and 17 cooks stood there in awe as Chef Peters portioned the lobe for four people….one saying…”why can’t you buy that anywhere…I would love to eat that”

Is it about cooking? Or about cooking style? Can one restaurant be spontaneous with its style?

Mark me down for a table for 4, whole roasted Foie sounds good to me

Molto E

Ditto. :wink::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

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if you hurry up, i'll meet you in shanghai later this year!  :raz:

if you were to open in shanghai, do you anticipate that you'll have to change your approach/technique/ingredients to tailor to the preferences of eastern palates?  or, do you expect that your food, as it is now, is "international" enough to be a success abroad?  on the flip side of that question, perhaps it could also be a question of whether you feel foreign palates are receptive to outside cuisines/approaches?

u.e.

Having never been to that part of the world I can’t really answer that question with confidence. But from what diners from Tokyo and Hong Kong have said, the cuisine of Alinea has several aesthetic and philosophical similarities of the food in these countries. Or at least similarities in social and gastronomic traditions. Certainly we embrace the sweet savory balance much like some the regions in China, and one can find several similarities to the experience that is offered in the Japanese Kaiseki meals. It seems like the presentations would be respected in this part of the world…at least from the innovative stance.

At the same time aren’t there several traditional French restaurants in that part of the world that are held in high regard? Do they alter their style to cater to the palates of the people…or is that what the people of the region are drawn to…something different than what they have at their immediate disposal?

chefg.

i don't know that you'll check this post again to see this...

i would agree with your statements. i have been to that part of the world and know the cuisine and "diner's psychology" there and would agree with you. from my visit to alinea - many elements are in harmony with the asian approach to food. not only in a lot of the taste elements you noted - but in the presentation and small-course/more bite-size portions. in fact, i distinctly remember that during a few of your courses - i instinctually wanted to reach for a a pair of chopsticks to use as a utensil. many of your courses were presented with the server's instructions for the diner to use their hands in eating. i found this satisfying in two ways:

1. it's sensual and natural to use ones hands. as well, it's "playful" in our western culture... unless we're eating pizza or fried chicken, mommy taught us to never use our hands... and,

2. it allowed me to texturally "feel-out" the food before eating.

while certainly the japanese and south asian cultures employ hands to eat, the chinese hardly ever do... and why? the food is always prepared in portions perfectly movable with chopsticks. i would say the same of many of alinea's food: milkweed pods, hearts of palm, tempura lamb tenderloin (chopsticks would have been very useful - especially to extract the nugget from within the confines of its wirey prison), zucchini cake, and yes, even my arch-nemesis, the dreaded tobacco cream :laugh: !

that beingn said, there were some elements of alinea's presentation that would not work well with the eastern style of eating... like your "deconstructionist" dishes - like the "a1 beef" that demand the mixing up of flavors. not only would chopsticks be infeasible (especially on broad flatware - asians prefer to "mix" their food by "slurping" it out of a bowl, with the help of their chopsticks as a shovel), but the chopsticks would be dead on such a big plate... i suppose one option would be to serve such dishes (like litchi halves, carrot raviolo with lobster "cheeto", and squab breast - all which appeared consecutively on my menu) in chinese soup bowls - that could be hand held and eaten with either a broad-tongued chinese soup spoon, or in combo with chopsticks...

well, sorry my little "asian spew" of suggestions has droned on. i don't know why i'm telling you all this stuff - clearly your command of food and creativity far exceed mine... just got so fascinated with this "project" of yours!! :raz:

cheers.

ulterior epicure.

p.s. look forward to shanghai, perhaps... :wink:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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To me, the idea of a scaled down, less formal setting for your past cusinine makes sense on so many levels.

Why? Why wouldn't it be a restaurant where we offered tasting menus simular to what we do at Alinea ...but dishes of the past?

Why do people want to make this cuisine "more approachable" Isn't that one aspect of what makes it special ..... it's un-approachability? Why turn it into a sushi concept of ordering it "by the peice" or large verions of the same food in an ala carte setting? Would it be the same?

does ordering a great piece of toro nigiri (or 5!) make it less special because it is more approachable? I don't think so.

In a tasting menu it makes sense to have an integrated whole that is composed and balanced -- and certainly a tasting menu could be available. But why not have the tapas/sushi bar of black truffle explosions etc.? Hell, I am at Alinea most days and I don't get to eat them!

You of all people should know why it is more special to have a format that is controlled by the house. How special is the explosion when you can get a dozen of them at will? Ron—was the first or the second explosion better?

Everyone has to admit there is something unique/special to a tasting menu format that an ala carte or tapas/sushi style service cannot provide.

Isn't that why you have Alinea. Restaurant x would support Alinea, but the menu structure is different. Alinea would be the special and restaurant x be the regular. I can't see myself having everyday be a special day. Though I could have many regular days.

But why would restaurant X be everyday? In fact, by saying that it would be everyday, aren't we diminishing the dishes that once made Trio and Alinea not everyday? Why can't the two concepts exist just like the French Laundry and Per Se exist? Why wouldn't it be more attractive than that, being that no dishes would overlap at the two restaurants? Why can't this concept just bring forth two great four star restaurants?

I think one of the (many) reasons why FL and PS works is that is not in the same area. I was under the assumption that restaurant X would be in Chicago. Perhaps one intention for opening up Bouchon is to take in the others who are unable to make it to the FL. Then maybe a restaurant Y is in order.

Anyways...

While you have the mike, care to comment on what is store after the break. Any major (or minor) changes? How about mid year? Anniversary? Care to share an outlined plan of the coming months. I ask, so that docsconz (and other non-locals) can plan out their Chicago visits.

...

Perhaps a diner has come to the restaurant and said, "today is my (or someone in the group) birthday." And you know they are expecting a cake with candles or something. Assuming that the before is true, what have you done, if any, to oblige.

I too assumed Restaurant X would be in Chicago. It presents some interesting possibilities and risks. Because so many more people are into known commodities, i.e. comfort food, than they are adventurous eating, there is the risk that Restaurant X might outshine Alinea not on an artistic basis, but a financial one. Then again, I'm not sure many people are pining to go to Benasuza, as good as it may be and as much as it may represent the El Bulli food of the past. It still is not El Bulli. I wonder how much the different location has to do with that? The more I think about this, the more I have mixed feelings about the idea.

Another issue that I feel strongly about is that any additional restaurants not attempt to duplicate Alinea in concept. They should be supporting players to the major role of Alinea. That could be "greatest hits" or totally new concepts based on Alinea's creative paradigm, but not an attempted duplication. The examples of Ducasse and Keller don't really apply as the concept of Alinea is so totally different than anything they do and so dependent on Grant's creativity and personality. Other talented and creative chefs of the same stylistic mode can perhaps be trained to staff these outposts and fill them with their own creations, but for all his creative genius I would be afraid of spreading Grant, himself out too thin.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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I too assumed Restaurant X would be in Chicago. It presents some interesting possibilities and risks. Because so many more people are into known commodities, i.e. comfort food, than they are adventurous eating, there is the risk that Restaurant X might outshine Alinea not on an artistic basis, but a financial one. Then again, I'm not sure many people are pining to go to Benasuza, as good as it may be and as much as it may represent the El Bulli food of the past. It still is not El Bulli. I wonder how much the different location has to do with that?  The more I think about this, the more I have mixed feelings about the idea.

Another issue that I feel strongly about is that any additional restaurants not attempt to duplicate Alinea in concept. They should be supporting players to the major role of Alinea. That could be "greatest hits" or totally new concepts based on Alinea's creative paradigm, but not an attempted duplication. The examples of Ducasse and Keller don't really apply as the concept of Alinea is so totally different than anything they do and so dependent on Grant's creativity and personality. Other talented and creative chefs of the same stylistic mode can perhaps be trained to staff these outposts and fill them with their own creations, but for all his creative genius I would be afraid of spreading Grant, himself out too thin.

[edited to remove the upstream quotes]

I didn't (assume Restaurant X would be in Chicago). After all, as Grant points out, (namely harkening to Keller's bi-coastal approach), a change of venue has its appeal... it brings both a change of clientele, traditions and food resources. I can imagine for a chef, and travel-diners (like me, docsconz, and others), this (and perhaps, mainly the last one - different food resources) is an exciting and promising idea.

I do agree with Grant on the tasting menu vs. tapas/a la carte format choice. I visit restaurants, like Alinea, Moto, Can Fabes, L'Arnsbourg, Sushi Yasuda,et al namely to experience the sort of hand-to-mouth experience that one gets directly (as in the case of Yasuda) from the chef. Even I, a person who enjoys the variety and "spices" of life - am often tempted to stick with what I like (as yellow truffle put it upstream, order 5 toro nigiri). Chefs and tasting menus help me, the diner, moderate my diet - and help me not to dote on a "safe bet," but move on to experience new worlds in tastes, textures, smells, etc... even though I didn't like everything on the menu at Alinea, I'm glad I experienced them - next time, when I'm confronted with bee balm, or an oxalis leaf, I'll be in more familiar territory and know better how to approach them. As well, my palate has become more flexible and willing to "move on" as a diner the next time - unaided by an auteur chef.

That being said, doc makes some very good points as well (and as always :wink: ). I, too, would fear "confusing" Restaurant X with Alinea. Now, not having eaten at any Keller or Ducasse establishments yet (that is all about to change very soon :smile: ), I can't compare. However, from what I have read, heard, and know, I suspect doc might have a good point about the differences that those two chefs have as opposed to Grant's. One that fears and dreads "chain" restaurants, I always get wary that great chefs "spread themselves too thing" as doc notes, and the result is gimmicky food - even if it really isn't, it certainly appears and "smells" that way. However, I would disagree with doc that genius can be spread "too" thin... I think if a chef/artist/whomever is creative and confident enough, they'll weather even the harshest critics. Good is good - whether you like it or not - I suspect many will be able to recognize quality when they see/taste/feel/experience it.

Uterior Epicure.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

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One that fears and dreads "chain" restaurants, I always get wary that great chefs "spread themselves too thing" as doc notes, and the result is gimmicky food - even if it really isn't, it certainly appears and "smells" that way.  However, I would disagree with doc that genius can be spread "too" thin... I think if a chef/artist/whomever is creative and confident enough, they'll weather even the harshest critics.  Good is good - whether you like it or not - I suspect many will be able to recognize quality when they see/taste/feel/experience it. 

Uterior Epicure.

I'm not afraid of the restaurants being too gimicky. I respect Chef Achatz too much to worry about that. I have to imagine that it is hard enough to sustain his continuous level of creativity in one restaurant. Ferran Adria takes half the year off to work on his dishes at his Atelier. Grant Achatz is taking two weeks off and has already spent a considerable amount of that here with us!

My concern is that if he were to directly try to do the same thing with Alinea satellites in which each was to be continuously original and creative withhim as the driving force behind each that it would be too much and all would suffer. If all were to be Alinea clones serving the same things as Alinea as Chef Achatz developed them with his staff (let's not forget them), then the risk would be that none of them would be quite as special unless there were other elements to distinguish them. This could be done through design, architecture and timing of the introductions of various dishes. Although I am not familiar with this via direct experience it seems like what Joel Robuchon is doing. These restaurants would by necessity be in different locales.

Another potential concept as I mentioned above is for the satellites to be sort of "independent laboratories" with different creative staffs under the overall vision of Chef Achatz. This is somewhat similar to what Ducasse has done.

Then there is the concept of the new (Alinea) and the classic (Restaurant X) a la Ferran Adria. This has been discussed above and has advantages and disadvantages. I do like the idea of at leat occassionally being able to sample Achatz classics whether from Alinea, Trio or some future project. From a selfish point of view, my preference would probably be to occassionally weave them into the Tour at Alinea rather than as a separate entry. If there were to be a Restaurant X, I would certainly go there, although it would likely remain second in my heart to the flagship.

Keller and others have taken the approach of keeping the flagship and adding relatively less expensive and simpler adjuncts along the lines of his Bouchon. While I have yet to dine at TFL, by most accounts Per Se is basically The French Laundry redux, albeit with a very different environment and feel. This is not a bad approach and has not diminished the allure of the flagship(s). I am sure that Chef Achatz and team could find a way to make this work.

Although I am sure other possible approaches exist, the only other one I can see for expansion is the approach taken by chefs such as J-G-V, Andres and Batali. That is to expand with different concepts and into different niches. Each continues to have his flagship restaurant, although the lines have blurred the most with Batali. While I have no doubt that Chef Achatz could do whatever style he wished extraordinarily well, somehow this approach wouldn't ring true for him. Each of the other chefs came from backgrounds of ethnically based cuisines and styles and then simply expandede upon them and spread out from them.

This is an interesting crossroads for Chef Achatz and his team. The philosophy of Alinea is to be in constant motion.That these ideas are being tossed around should be no surprise as they are simply another manifestation of that philosophy. Chef Achatz' cuisine is largely built upon the concept of risk and trust as the patron dining at Alinea is placing themselves in Chef Achatz' hands. Unless that patron is a frequent visitor to the restaurant (and even then), the patron is likely to encounter novel creations. Given that Chef has earned the trust of most of us (if not all) posting here and many others as well, I for one, have no problem trusting him and his team with whatever creative and business avenues they pursue and look forward to patronizing them whenever I can. I just hope that at least one of these projects is closer to where I live! :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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One that fears and dreads "chain" restaurants, I always get wary that great chefs "spread themselves too thing" as doc notes, and the result is gimmicky food - even if it really isn't, it certainly appears and "smells" that way.  However, I would disagree with doc that genius can be spread "too" thin... I think if a chef/artist/whomever is creative and confident enough, they'll weather even the harshest critics.  Good is good - whether you like it or not - I suspect many will be able to recognize quality when they see/taste/feel/experience it. 

Uterior Epicure.

I'm not afraid of the restaurants being too gimicky. I respect Chef Achatz too much to worry about that. I have to imagine that it is hard enough to sustain his continuous level of creativity in one restaurant. Ferran Adria takes half the year off to work on his dishes at his Atelier. Grant Achatz is taking two weeks off and has already spent a considerable amount of that here with us!

good point. and yes, he has been very generous with this time... :wub: but i suspect, in a way, this thread has also been a beneficial exercise for him in the way of "researching" - no? :wink:

My concern is that if he were to directly try to do the same thing with Alinea satellites in which each was to be continuously original and creative withhim as the driving force behind each that it would be too much and all would suffer. If all were to be Alinea clones serving the same things as Alinea as Chef Achatz developed them with his staff (let's not forget them), then the risk would be that none of them would be quite as special unless there were other elements to distinguish them. This could be done through design, architecture and timing of the introductions of various dishes.

I guess this is what I meant by "gimmicky" - courses/food/presentations, while immensely novel on their own becomes undervalued due to over-production.

Another potential concept as I mentioned above is for the satellites to be sort of "independent laboratories" with different creative staffs under the overall vision of Chef Achatz. This is somewhat similar to what Ducasse has done.

Agreed - and here, I think Achatz may be able to reproduce - but in a different venue - which is why I didn't assume that Restaurant X (wouldn't it be a hoot if it ended up actually being named that? :laugh: ) would also be in Chicago. Indeed, out of the very concept, I would think that it almost couldn't.

Then there is the concept of the new (Alinea) and the classic (Restaurant X) a la Ferran Adria. This has been discussed above and has advantages and disadvantages. I do like the idea of at leat occassionally being able to sample Achatz classics whether from Alinea, Trio or some future project. From a selfish point of view, my preference would probably be to occassionally weave them into the Tour at Alinea rather than as a separate entry. If there were to be a Restaurant X, I would certainly go there, although it would likely remain second in my heart to the flagship.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I'd necessarily have the same loyalty - but we would have to see.

Keller and others have taken the approach of keeping the flagship and adding relatively less expensive and simpler adjuncts along the lines of his Bouchon. While I have yet to dine at TFL, by most accounts Per Se is basically The French Laundry redux, albeit with a very different environment and feel. This is not a bad approach and has not diminished the allure of the flagship(s). I am sure that Chef Achatz and team could find a way to make this work.

Yes, this is what I meant by tailoring (essentially) the same food/approach to different clientele, with perhaps different food sources. Although I've been to neither, already, Per Se, in my mind, is just the New York "bureau" of TFL.

Although I am sure other possible approaches exist, the only other one I can see for expansion is the approach taken by chefs such as J-G-V, Andres and Batali. That is to expand with different concepts and into different niches. Each continues to have his flagship restaurant, although the lines have blurred the most with Batali. While I have no doubt that Chef Achatz could do whatever style he wished extraordinarily well, somehow this approach wouldn't ring true for him. Each of the other chefs came from backgrounds of ethnically based cuisines and styles and then simply expandede upon them and spread out from them.

But then, these chefs also run into the trouble of "spreading themselves too thin," in my opinion. Personally, I haven't found all of J-G-V's restaurants/concepts to jive as well as his original eponymous (in my eyes, a castle in the sky) restaurant.

just hope that at least one of these projects is closer to where I live! :wink:

Me too! Double :wink: !

U.E.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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One that fears and dreads "chain" restaurants, I always get wary that great chefs "spread themselves too thing" as doc notes, and the result is gimmicky food - even if it really isn't, it certainly appears and "smells" that way.  However, I would disagree with doc that genius can be spread "too" thin... I think if a chef/artist/whomever is creative and confident enough, they'll weather even the harshest critics.  Good is good - whether you like it or not - I suspect many will be able to recognize quality when they see/taste/feel/experience it. 

Uterior Epicure.

I'm not afraid of the restaurants being too gimicky. I respect Chef Achatz too much to worry about that. I have to imagine that it is hard enough to sustain his continuous level of creativity in one restaurant. Ferran Adria takes half the year off to work on his dishes at his Atelier. Grant Achatz is taking two weeks off and has already spent a considerable amount of that here with us!

good point. and yes, he has been very generous with this time... :wub: but i suspect, in a way, this thread has also been a beneficial exercise for him in the way of "researching" - no? :wink:

I hope so.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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My concern is that if he were to directly try to do the same thing with Alinea satellites in which each was to be continuously original and creative withhim as the driving force behind each that it would be too much and all would suffer. If all were to be Alinea clones serving the same things as Alinea as Chef Achatz developed them with his staff (let's not forget them), then the risk would be that none of them would be quite as special unless there were other elements to distinguish them. This could be done through design, architecture and timing of the introductions of various dishes.

I guess this is what I meant by "gimmicky" - courses/food/presentations, while immensely novel on their own becomes undervalued due to over-production.

Agreed.
Another potential concept as I mentioned above is for the satellites to be sort of "independent laboratories" with different creative staffs under the overall vision of Chef Achatz. This is somewhat similar to what Ducasse has done.

Agreed - and here, I think Achatz may be able to reproduce - but in a different venue - which is why I didn't assume that Restaurant X (wouldn't it be a hoot if it ended up actually being named that? :laugh: ) would also be in Chicago. Indeed, out of the very concept, I would think that it almost couldn't.

The assumption is based on Restaurant X being a "greatest hits" or "best of" restaurant. I would think that it would be natural for that to be in Chicago, although it certainly could be elsewhere, especially if there were several of them. This would actually be a vary interesting concept.

Then there is the concept of the new (Alinea) and the classic (Restaurant X) a la Ferran Adria. This has been discussed above and has advantages and disadvantages. I do like the idea of at leat occassionally being able to sample Achatz classics whether from Alinea, Trio or some future project. From a selfish point of view, my preference would probably be to occassionally weave them into the Tour at Alinea rather than as a separate entry. If there were to be a Restaurant X, I would certainly go there, although it would likely remain second in my heart to the flagship.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I'd necessarily have the same loyalty - but we would have to see.

I'm not sure that it is so much a question of loyalty vs. where the creative excitement is. While the opportunity to sample the classic cuisine is one I would gladly avail myself of, to me the opportunity to be on the creative edge adds considerable value and excitement especially when I trust that creativity to be exceptional as Chef Achatz' has.

Edited by docsconz (log)

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Keller and others have taken the approach of keeping the flagship and adding relatively less expensive and simpler adjuncts along the lines of his Bouchon. While I have yet to dine at TFL, by most accounts Per Se is basically The French Laundry redux, albeit with a very different environment and feel. This is not a bad approach and has not diminished the allure of the flagship(s). I am sure that Chef Achatz and team could find a way to make this work.

Yes, this is what I meant by tailoring (essentially) the same food/approach to different clientele, with perhaps different food sources. Although I've been to neither, already, Per Se, in my mind, is just the New York "bureau" of TFL.

It's funny, but perhaps because of this Per Se has lost some of its appeal to me even though it remains a great restaurant.

Although I am sure other possible approaches exist, the only other one I can see for expansion is the approach taken by chefs such as J-G-V, Andres and Batali. That is to expand with different concepts and into different niches. Each continues to have his flagship restaurant, although the lines have blurred the most with Batali. While I have no doubt that Chef Achatz could do whatever style he wished extraordinarily well, somehow this approach wouldn't ring true for him. Each of the other chefs came from backgrounds of ethnically based cuisines and styles and then simply expandede upon them and spread out from them.

But then, these chefs also run into the trouble of "spreading themselves too thin," in my opinion. Personally, I haven't found all of J-G-V's restaurants/concepts to jive as well as his original eponymous (in my eyes, a castle in the sky) restaurant.

While I agree that J-G-V's other restaurants have not lived up to his flagship, fortunately that hasn't been diminished. He still spends considerable time there. My meal there in December was outstanding and an amazing value to boot.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm not sure that it is so much a question of loyalty vs. where the creative excitement is. While the opportunity to sample the classic cuisine is would I would gladly avail myself of, to me the opportunity to be on the creative edge adds considerable value and excitement especially when I trust that creativity to be exceptional as Chef Achatz' has.

Right - this is what I meant to say - that "loyalty" is a non-entity in the face of finding the true center of "creative excitement," as you put it (in better terms than I :wink: ). And, if Restaurant X, Y, Z, etc... happens to become a more innovative outlet for gastronomy, then the flagship would only be such in seniority alone.

U.E.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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With all of the hoopla with paco jets, thermomixers, and homogenizers I wanted to go backwards….to the very basic of tools and see what I have overlooked. Going forward is not always the answer I am finding out.

Chef- I believe you are back at work today, so this is likely a little late to the discussion. Hope your vacation was relaxing though!

I have to say that I'm glad to see the quote above because I think that even as early as 2002 (when I first became aware of your cuisine) you had a strong enough personal aesthetic and style to transcend being defined solely by traits such as era of technique, regional ingredients, nationalism, modernism, menu size, utensils, previous kitchen experience, cost of a meal, etc. that might overtake the identity of lesser chefs. Simply put, yours is sort of an "open-to-anything cuisine", and it can afford to be, because no matter what is brought to it, whether it be some type of lost and forgotten vegetable or herb (to sound like Veyrat for a second) or a cutting-edge synthetic sugar, it will be processed and sent out into the dining room as a Grant Achatz dish before it is anything else.

So I think it would be a shame for this identity to get too tied up with only the pursuit of what is new, and for the personal/artistic aspects to become secondary and lost to some type of modern food arms-race. (Although I think it's clear that when it comes to most of the media covering food these days, this is all that they seem to be interested in portraying. So on some level it must be accepted as a natural consequence of the times.)

Having said that though, most of what goes on at Alinea seems to have followed a very natural path from dishes you were doing a Trio. In a way this relates to the discussion that has been going on on this thread about creating a Restaurant X for your classic dishes. I'm not sure I see the point of the idea. I guess it depends on what people feel makes a dish a classic in the first place? Was it the dish in its entirety- the flatware used, the way it was plated, and the exact form each various ingredient was in? Would people want to find it again at a new restaurant exactly the way it was in 2003, or would they expect some type of twist? Or is it simply the pairing of two elements, like beef with sassafras (this was done at Trio three times I believe) or lamb with a cardamon-coffee reduction, that has left an imprint and should be repeated?

A quick look at the current TDF and I can't help but see a couple "classics" of yours in some sense, updated and being served. A bite of the Pork with grapefruit and Ohio honey must be a very similar experience, I imagine to the sous-vide poached breast of Wisconsin Poussin with tart lemon puree and honey I was served during my first meal at Trio. Black Cod with lemon, parsley and caper powder is working with a similar flavor profile to the one Roasted Alaskan Halibut with orange, parsley and picholine olive had years ago. The cassis dessert replaces the strawberry/rhubarb pairing from a dish that was on the closing menu at Trio with a current/beet one, while keeping the supporting elements of goat's milk and violet. And I have been told that the Kumquat is your version of a martini, and it certainly wouldn't be the first cocktail that you have deconstructed and reinterpreted.

Now I admit that for a first time diner who wants to try the B.T. Explosion or lobster with rosemary vapor, what I have pointed out above might not have any consolation value, so my opinion can't account for their perspective. But from my own point of view it makes me happy and excited to think that I might be shocked to find at Alinea one day some type of classical French preparation that no other chef in the world (that is, except for Bernard Pacaud) still cooks and serves at their restaurant.

Looking forward to it sometime Chef! :laugh:

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