Alinea in Chicago is well known for its innovative recipes and top notch dining experience, and it’s been ranked as the best restaurant in America in our recent list. We spoke with chef and co-owner of the restaurant, Grant Achatz, about how he gets inspired to create his unique dishes.
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Following is a transcript of the video:
I’m Grant Achatz and I’m the chef and co-owner of the Alinea here in Chicago.
Some people call it molecular gastronomy. We like to say “progressive American.” We don’t grow food in Petri dishes and test tubes.
We have a series of about anywhere from 17 to 19 course tasting menu that people are able to experience here at the restaurant, utilising a lot of theatrical elements, really in trying to engage the senses and trying to resonate emotionally with with the guests.
Alinea is a word that basically means the beginning of a new paragraph or a new train of thought.
We’re very fortunate to have 70 people working at Alinea that all drink the same Kool-Aid. They’re all super passionate about about what we produce, the guest experience.
My whole world is pushed through a kaleidoscope of food. And it can go from listening to a song in my car on the way to work to walking down the street and listening to the leaves rustle in the trees, and watching them fall on the ground. You’re just constantly bombarded with ideas, and it’s up to us to figure out a way to translate them to the guests.
If I’m listening to Rage Against the Machine and I hear these really peaks and valleys of tempos, what I’m processing is how is that keeping me interested? And how does that translate to the dining experience? Can we craft a tasting menu that has that same arc of up and down and extremes, and we intentionally craft the menu progression so that it has these very very steep climaxes and then dips intentionally to very very low points in the menu. It breaks the monotony of the dining experience.
Well, the idea of flavour bouncing is simply taking a central, thematic ingredient — a focal ingredient — and playing a game of basically connect the dots, or bouncing satellite ingredients off that central ingredient. And the only rule of this whole creative method is that whatever the central ingredient is has to go with all the satellite ingredients. And all the satellite ingredients have to go in some way to at least one of the other ingredients.
It’s a safety net, if you will, to make sure that you’re composing a dish that doesn’t have a clashing ingredient.
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