Monday, May 05, 2008

Grant Achatz's fight with tongue cancer

The New Yorker has a fascinating article about Grant Achatz, the chef of the molecular gastronomy restaurant, Alinea in Chicago. I haven't yet been, but from the things I have read, what he is doing at Alinea would alone be enough for an interesting article and has been. Below is an excerpt from the Tech Review article:
When an order for rabbit (a dish I didn't try) came in, one cook set the leaves afire with a blowtorch, making the kitchen smell like a suburban lawn in the fall. A second cook smothered the fire with the bottom of another steel container covered with foil. A third cook quickly put upside-down old-fashioned glasses over the leaf container, to fill them with smoke. These would serve as cloches for waiting plates of rabbit loin covered with brioche crumbs browned with butter and thyme and set over roasted-garlic butter, accompanied by cider gel thickened with a kind of modified starch used in industrial food processing. Once the glasses were turned right side up, at the table, the waiter would fill them with rabbit consommé. These kitchen and tabletop theatrics gave diners not just the taste of fall but its smoky smell, too.

Semiridiculous as these tricks sound, they exploit the evocative power of scent, memories of which lodge in a primitive storage area in the brain. Scent works: that lamb is the dish I still think about months after I had it.
The New Yorker article, however, describes Achatz and his battle with tongue cancer, which not only was life-threatening, but also jeopardized his career and passion for being a chef. The radiation treatment made Achatz lose all sense of taste, which he is now slowly regaining back.
Anyways, it's a terribly interesting read: New Yorker's A Man of Tastes

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[via Kottke]

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