When Senses Fail

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

In 2007, chef Grant Achatz seemingly had it made. He had been named one of the best new chefs in America by Food & Wine and the restaurant he co-founded, Alinea, had just been deemed the Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine. Then, Achatz was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma--tongue cancer. In Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, he and his partner, Nick Kokonas, recount the story of their rise to the top and how they managed to work through Achatz's deadly diagnosis to once again take the food world by storm.


Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

Comments [7]

Ro from Manhattan

I address this to dboy from NYC: you readily admit not understanding Achatz' dining concept so perhaps your rancour toward Chef Achatz' is due to the fact that you equate food only with sustenance. That would be the equivalent of suggesting that a Reubens masterpiece is a waste of wall space; Glen Miller a waste of air space and Shakespeare a waste of paper.

The love of fine dining in no way supplants or denigrates the terrible misery of poverty and starvation throughout the world. In fact many chefs and fine dining restaurants are the backbone of relief of this scourge. Please remember SOS and City Harvest in NYC. This craft and art, like architecture, music, sculpture, painting and literature is created to enhance the deep reflective consciousness, expressiveness and defininition of us as human and humane.

Try being open and accepting a little more to other's expressions of their being instead of damning especially where understanding is shortened by prejudice or "pre-judging".

Mar. 08 2011 02:03 PM
Steve from Morristown, NJ

Wondering if there is any connection between the molecular gastronomy & the chefs tongue cancer. Just a thought.

Mar. 08 2011 01:54 PM

@ dboy from nyc

You have a point. But I think you have to look at this as an artform. He's an artist and food is his medium.

Mar. 08 2011 01:33 PM
dboy from nyc

It is curious the similarities this "haute" cuisine has with what might be considered its industrial antithesis. Both are very highly processed, marginally nutritive and primarily entertainment. Is there really much difference between something like this and a bag of Doritos®? Besides the price point and the scale of production, that is. The industrial food process is very similar; deconstruct a simple ingredient (ie. corn) to it's base elements and then reconstruct it into an unrecognizable form of little nutritional value.

This form of dining brings to mind the decadence of ancient Rome, it redefines gluttony. Reduces food to a pornographic experience.

There seems to be a moral dilemma in deconstructing, fetishizing and divorcing food from it's elemental purpose to sustain. Especially in a world where so many go to bed hungry every night. A world where the price of food forces most families to spend up to 80% of their household income on food.

Despite having a difficult time understanding his dining concept, I am very sympathetic to Mr. Achatz's battle with cancer. I wish him the very best and hope he continues in his successful recovery.

Mar. 08 2011 01:29 PM

@ Douglas Wood from New York, New York

Yeah, I thought the interview with Terri Gross was really good too!

Mar. 08 2011 01:27 PM

What additional training do your kitchen staff go through--a degree in science perhaps?

Mar. 08 2011 01:26 PM
Douglas Wood from New York, New York

I'm am so thrilled to hear Lenny interview Grant. I so enjoyed his interview with Terri Gross and I thought he was so inspiring. He has such a kind, gentle, open voice and I'm enjoying very much reading his book. I remember thinking, "Gee, wouldn't it be terrific to hear him interviewed by Leonard Lopate" when I heard him on "Fresh Air." So glad he's here and I'm so happy he's on Lenny's wonderful show.

Mar. 08 2011 01:23 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.