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Elite Traveler Speaks to Grant Achatz

By Zahra Al-Kateb

By Lauren Jade Hill

Having earned three Michelin stars and garnered global attention, Alinea has become a name that’s associated with some of the world’s most innovative dining. It’s chef Grant Achatz who’s behind this modernist cuisine, so as Alinea comes in at number two on the list, he takes time out with Elite Traveler to talk about his food philosophy and the difference the restaurant’s recent renovation has made to the experience guests have here.

What does being voted number two in the Top 100 Restaurants awards mean to you?

I think we are extremely lucky. It’s gratification for a tremendous amount of hard work. And with the Elite Traveler restaurants awards, you never know who is voting. We know when a food critic comes in, but we have no idea who the voters are, so it’s a kind of maturement for us.

What do you think it is about your food that people respond to so well?

Alinea makes the dining experience theatrical and emotional. One thing that everyone talks about is the edible balloon. With the renovation of Alinea, we decided we wanted to throw everything out, and not do anything we’ve done before. But when we looked back we realized the fact we made food float is pretty awesome and that maybe we should leave that on the menu. When people eat it, whether they’re 14 or 80 years old, they giggle, and to me, if you can achieve that with food, that’s pretty cool.

What is your food philosophy?

Ultimately, we want to create an amazing experience for the diners, and with our style of cooking, we do that through emotions. Manipulation is not a bad word; if you responsibly manipulate food, that can be a great thing. We call it progressive American, thought-provoking, emotional cooking.

What difference has the renovation made to the experiences people have?

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When I opened Alinea I had a very clear idea of how I thought it should be; everything was steel and glass, black and graphite. Now, we’ve changed the interior completely; we took the opportunity to change the restaurant architecturally. It’s now more theatrical, with a high tech sound system that interjects during the dining experience. We are trying to break the boundaries of what we used to be and what a current dining experience can be.

What are you working on next?

We are about to open our first venture outside of Chicago. We’ve partnered with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group to open The Aviary NYC on the 35th floor of the Mandarin Oriental New York. It’s an amazing space overlooking Central Park and we’re super excited to be there.

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