Grant Achatz

Chef, Author

Chicago

Grant Achatz got his start in some of the best kitchens in the world, including a four-year stint at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry. He first took the helm of the Chicago-area eatery Trio, where he won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in 2003. Two years later, Achatz opened Alinea, a Chicago standout (and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star winner) where he continues to push the limits of molecular gastronomy. In 2011, Achatz opened the Chicago hot spot Next and the adjacent Aviary cocktail lounge. Achatz surprised the culinary community in 2012 when he traded places with chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park for a stint. He added author to his resume with the publication of two books: Alinea, a cookbook, and Life on the Line, a memoir about his professional journey and his battle with tongue cancer.

  • On March 1, 2013
    Tom Flournoy is now following Grant Achatz
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    Jordan Lawson is now following Grant Achatz
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    Hayley Bosch is now following Grant Achatz
  • On February 28, 2013
    Lauren Viera is now following Grant Achatz
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    Jason Heard is now following Grant Achatz
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    Michelle Doucette is now following Grant Achatz
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    Jennifer Kester is now following Grant Achatz
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz’s Next restaurant e-books like?

    The concept of Next is — from a culinary point of view — let’s change the identity of a restaurant every quarter. Nobody else would consider doing that because it’s really hard. Then my partner Nick [Kokonas] thought of selling tickets to a restaurant. And I was like, “Wow, that’s a leap of faith, and it’s really hard. We should do it.” Then we said we should make an iBook. The concept of Next is that every three or four months, the restaurant changes. So you go from “Paris” to “Thailand” to “Childhood” to “El Bulli,” and we thought it would be really cool to package it all up.
     
    So how do we do that? Well, we break it apart. And every quarter we do the photography, writing, everything — it’s all produced in house. We got on the phone with Apple and they were excited about it. We supply all the collateral material, and they load it and make it beautiful. So now every quarter, we put out a book, an e-book, basically. I think these are innovative, cool things that we’re doing that are driving fields forward.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz’s favorite Chicago restaurants?

    There are so many great restaurants in Chicago. I can go on and on: Schwa, Graham Elliot, Yusho, Great Lake pizza, Big Star, Maude’s Liquor Bar, Katsu.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz’s favorite Chicago brunch spots?

    The Publican in Fulton Market, Longman & Eagle, Lula Café, Mindy’s HotChocolate and North Pond overlooking the water in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz’s favorite things do in Chicago?

    Chicago has so many professional sports teams, so a game is a must. We also have an amazing art scene. I personally enjoy the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and The Art Institute of Chicago. For theater, there’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Goodman Theatre. And you need to eat in this city because of its vast diversity. Standouts include progressive grunge restaurants like Schwa, celebrity-chef driven restaurants like Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, or amazing ethnic cuisine like Tac Quick Thai Kitchen and Katsu. You should also explore Chicago’s beautiful beachfronts and parks.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What is Grant Achatz’s favorite thing to bring home from his travels?

    We bring back interesting ingredients. It’s not brand specific. It’s about brand exclusivity and not being able to procure it in the United States. We bring back things we smuggle in, sake that we can’t find here in this country or whiskey or whatever — but the ideas and the way they approach everything is what we bring back, that’s the most important for us.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    Who is Grant Achatz’s favorite traveling companion?

    It depends. I typically like to take somebody from the company to try to inspire that person. For instance, I took Dave Baron, the chef at Next, to Japan for 12 days because we’re [going to feature the food of] Kyoto. So I wanted him to experience that firsthand. Obviously, it’s my girlfriend, if I happen to have one at the time. Here’s the thing with travel for me: We got invited to Japan, for example, for a food conference in Hokkaido, and the obligation is a one-hour talk on creativity and what we do. And the other 11 days were research and development. So I bring Dave, he brings his girlfriend, I bring a guest and we fulfill the obligation, and then we explore Japan and figure out what we’re going to do with that Kyoto menu.
     
    You can read 10 cookbooks on Kyoto cuisine, but until you’re there and can actually look around at everything and feel it — really feel it, look at the cherry blossoms, feel the hospitality — and understand the culture, it won’t translate back into the experience you’re going to reproduce in the restaurant.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz’s favorite cities?

    Tokyo, Kyoto, New York City — even though I know that’s kind of a cliché answer — and my own city, Chicago. You don’t even want to get me started on Japan. Tokyo is like New York in its aesthetic, energy and vibrancy, but what Tokyo has over New York is that the Japanese culture is so disciplined and hospitable. It is phenomenal. What resonates with me about Japan in general is that they really think about everything they do: When you walk into the department store, the fruit is perfect, and they would never think of it any other way. It’s mind-blowing.
  • On January 8, 2013
    Grant Achatz answered the question: Grant Achatz

    What are Grant Achatz's favorite restaurants?

    In New York, one that is completely obvious is Per Se, because Thomas Keller is my mentor and a friend of mine. I worked at The French Laundry for four and a half years, and he is an incredible person, but the reason it blew me away was not only because the food was phenomenal and the service and the wine and all that, but as a young cook I thought, “Okay, French Laundry is the pinnacle, and there’s no way that Thomas can ever replicate that.” And yet he did. He made it maybe even better than perfect. El Bulli was another amazing experience for me, but it’s closed. I think one of the best restaurants in the world, flat-out, is El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. It might be the number one meal in my life. I ate there last year. There’s also a Barcelona tapas restaurant called Cal Tete. It’s basically a bar, but the food is incredible. We had squid and octopus and sardines, and the croquetas there are phenomenal.