Not Eating at Alinea

[by Naveen]

After a month of six group meeting and journal club presentations, I'll be completely ready for a rejuvenating weekend in Chicago to see Lollapalooza with my college roommate. I've been listening to all the bands on the line-up and asking friends for recommendations in anticipation of the big event.

By some type of coincidence, I recently read the latest article in a series of posts by Grant Achatz, the chef of the cutting-edge and controversial restaurant Alinea in Chicago, which brought up some interesting parallels with the music world. He actually starts his article about "when a chef gets famous" with the analogy to seeing Bono live for the first time. Now many chefs have rock-star status as the Food Network and other media outlets have catapaulted them into the realm of celebrity. This has its downsides, since it means less hands-on time in the kitchen, leading to dissapointment by some diners.

On the other hand, this trend is great for people like me. Even if I ate at Alinea (which would be considerably more expensive than the Lollapalooza tickets), I almost certainly wouldn't get to talk to the chef. However, through magazine articles, his recent cookbook, and numerous other sources, I can start to understand his approach towards food. I haven't gone so far as this woman, but it has still led to several great conversations about whether this style of cooking is a worthwhile exploration at the frontiers of food or nothing more than a collection of "molecular gastronomy" gimmicks.

I see another analogy to music. A butterfly-collector can buy tickets to listen to all of the Top 40 bands live. However, I doubt that he would enjoy the music at the same level as a long-time fan of a particular band who has been following the evolution of the their sound over time, keeping track of tour dates, saving money for the tickets, and sharing his enthusiasm for the music with friends. With restaurants, is the diner trying to amass a collection of eating at the "best" restaurants in the world or is he sincerely intirgued by the chef's work?


  1. Naveen, you're the one I haven't met yet, I think. We should fix that soon. I go to Lolla every year, and this year I might be adding a visit to Alinea to the trip. Will you be going back this year? We should get John to come!

  2. We do need to fix that soon. I'll be in Chicago in mid-June for the Institute of Food Technologists conference, but probably not Lolla. Hopefully we can all meet up some other time this summer.