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Y&H has never eaten at Alinea, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to put myself in chef Grant Achatz‘s hands for dinner. I don’t care if I’m paying the dude $225 for his 23-course “tour” menu, Achatz has carte blanche over my meal whenever I get the chance to step foot into his place.
Achatz is not just a chef. He’s an artist. He thinks about food like an artist. He conceptualizes food like an artist. He displays food like an artist. His creations just happen to be edible.
I’ve never quite understood why some diners, when they enter a house of true gastronomy, feel like they still need to dictate the terms of the experience, as if they were ordering a la carte from the Olive Garden. Yeah, I’ve heard the usual excuses: “But I don’t like that much salt!” “But I’m lactose intolerant!” “But I want to have bigger portions!” “But I’m allergic to agar agar and isomalt!”
Well, then don’t go or get over your friggin’ fear of salt for one night.
Seriously, why do some diners still treat chefs like hired help? As if chefs still lived in one-room hovels over the garage, wearing old socks for gloves and never entering the dining room unless ordered by the master of the house for ritual belittlement?
How many other artists have the terms of their craft dictated by the masses? Does Bono takes requests when you shell out $200 for a front-row seat at a U2 concert? Does MoMA only show Warhol pop art because you paid $20 to walk in the door? Does the conductor at the Washington National Opera tell the tenor to sing Siegfried in English just because you shelled out a couple of Benjamins for your seat?
This culture of privilege is apparently so prevalent that Achatz felt compelled to write a piece for The Atlantic explaining why you have no options at his restaurant. You’ll have your molecular gastronomy and you’ll like it! Here’s the gist:
So why do we do all this?
The truth lies in the experience. It is rare that in today’s world we give ourselves completely to someone’s idea, and I think this surrender of choice can provide some exciting and rewarding results. We have a very specific vision for the overall experience Alinea should provide. In order to see that realized by our guests, we need to make sure that all of the elements are in place to support the vision. We need to control the experience fully.
Photo by xmatt