Find your cullinary voice

Interview with Grant Achatz

Chef Grant Achatz shares his culinary perspective with the Institute of Culinary Education.May 2008

Grant Achatz incontestably is one of the top chefs in the country today. His progressive cooking style extends to providing diners with a unique experience that includes every aspect of the meal, from their surroundings to the food itself. In just three years, his Chicago restaurant, Alinea, has found a place among the most sought-after dining destinations in the world. Prior to owning his own restaurant, he was the executive chef of Trio in Chicago, and spent four years at the French Laundry, working under Thomas Keller. The list of awards Achatz has received is seemingly infinite; it includes James Beard Awards for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2007 and Rising Star Chef in America in 2003, as well as a nomination for Best New Restaurant for Alinea in 2006. Food & Wine also chose Achatz as one of the Best New Chefs of 2002. Achatz is not taking any of these accolades for granted, however, and continues to push the envelope towards a greater level of perfection and more delicious food. He will release the Alinea cookbook in fall 2008, along with a companion website called Alinea Mosaic. The Main Course recently spoke to him via phone.

Why did you become a chef?
I was born in a restaurant family. My mother and father owned a restaurant. My grandmother owned a restaurant. A lot of my uncles and aunts owned a restaurant. I grew up in the environment. It just felt very comfortable. It wasn't like this great epiphany where as a 15-year-old student I said, I want to become a chef someday. It was just growing up in the kitchen, learning the culture and understanding it, and doing it. And then ultimately trying to push beyond the experiences that I had as a young teenager in the restaurant, deciding to go to culinary school and finding out that food can be kind of an artistic medium versus just feeding people. That's what my family's restaurants were. They were just about feeding people and being a pillar, a social meeting place in the community. They weren't artistically fashioned. Once you're exposed to that potential, it's very exciting.

What types of foods were they cooking?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mashed potatoes and meatloaf and omelets and eggs and burgers and fries. People went and filled their stomach.

What does your family think about what you're cooking now?
I think they're proud. I think they enjoy it. They've been here several times. It's much different. It's a big departure from what they're used to, but they certainly are proud, I suspect.

What do you call your style of cooking?
Progressive American.

Break down each term for me. What do you mean by progressive, and then what is characteristically American in your dishes?
Progressive being the utilization of cutting-edge technique and the exploration of creativity. And American being eclectic ingredients and regional items, and more of a global melting pot of cuisine styles. European countries have a very long-rooted tradition. France and Germany and all the European countries have just a much greater history than the United States. The United States is a combination of people from all of those countries. That's how this country was founded. So there hasn't been one common cuisine in this country like there is in France or like there is in some other countries. What people don't realize is that, in fact, American cooking is influenced by all of these European-type cultures. It's a natural thing for us to take themes from different countries and incorporate it into our own cooking style.

How did you become interested in the progressive aspect? The technology, the different techniques.
It's just a matter of being curious. I was always somebody who was interested in art and construction and emotion, and then just always trying to push the envelope no matter whether I was in culinary school or working for other chefs or, ultimately, trying to create my own style. I don't think it's anything in particular other than just a personal characteristic.

What differentiates you from other chefs who use technology, such as Ferran Adrià or Wylie Dufresne?
Each of us certainly has our own style. We always get lumped together, but each one of us has our own individual style. We all share certain types of techniques, and we all share certain aesthetic emotions. But we definitely are all our own individual mind and we're not trying to emulate each other. It becomes a very personal thing when you're cooking and creating your style. Homaro [Cantu] at Moto has a very scientific approach that he actually likes to show, for example. Here at Alinea, we probably use all of the same technologies and techniques, but we keep them more in the kitchen and make it more of a mystery for the guests. Whereas, he likes to kind of incorporate that as part of the experience, the actual science of it. Wylie certainly has his own style, based on his experiences from working with Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] and his influences from certain Spanish chefs. Conversely, I have my past with Thomas Keller. So that's a great influence for me. The problem is that whenever a new style of cuisine comes forward, it's always hard to define it. And right now, what people don't realize is that this modern gastronomy movement really just started between five and 10 years ago. It's relatively new and people have yet to kind of have the opportunity to really analyze it and see how it's going to mature and then, therefore, define it. It's too early to define yet because you don't really know what's going to stick and you don't really know how it's going to trickle down. I mean, you certainly see it trickling down already. But you just don't know how far it's going to go.

At the same time, the media want to define it, obviously. They want to talk about what you're doing.
Well, then they should define it. That would be great. That's their job. If you look at a bunch of impressionist painters, do you think that back then they all got together and said, "hey, we happen to be all influenced by the same things and we happen to be about the same age, and we're all painting something stylistically similar, let's define our own movement?" No way. They're just painting, man. They paint and they let other people judge. And it's the same thing for us. We're not sitting around going, "we have to come up with a way of defining our cuisine style." No. We live in our little bubble. We're cooking every day. I'm spending 14 to 16 to 17, 18 hours a day in this restaurant. I couldn't even tell you what Wylie's doing right now. I have no idea. Nor does he have any idea what I'm doing because we're too busy doing our own thing. It would be fantastic if somebody with an open mind and a very strong knowledge of food could actually sample Ferran's work, and Heston's [Blumenthal] work, and my work and Homaro's work and Wylie's work and make a really serious attempt to try to analyze it and define it. That would be great. I don't have time for that. But don't just do it like this. Don't say, oh, they're all performing molecular gastronomy. That's not correct.

But generally, the media label you as doing just that, without trying to understand what the term means.
Nobody's really realizing what that term means. Nobody ever looked at that term and said, "when I put molecular and gastronomy together, what does that mean?" They just start lumping all of us into the same pool. And it's just not correct. What is more definitive, in my opinion, is finding the essence of what the restaurant is trying to convey. What is the experience that the restaurant offers? That is the defining element of what it should be labeled as. Not because I use sodium alginate and so does Ferran Adrià, and therefore, we're all cooking the same way. That's just not fair. That would be like saying, this architect decided that he was going to use concrete stands and that architect is going to use concrete stands. That's absurd. You're a painter using oil paint and that painter is using oil paint, and therefore, they're both the same. Come on. You don't see [the media] do this for anyone else, but they do it to chefs, and I don't know why. It's just incorrect. It's really unfortunate that people who are actually conveying the information to the public don't have a base knowledge or the dedication or integrity to really look at what is going on experientially at these restaurants and separate them and talk about them in intelligent ways. It's just easier to say here's a bunch of mad scientists, radical chefs out there and they're all cooking the same way. That's just silly. There. That's my little rant [laughs]. It's really frustrating. We're all different.

An Australian chef spent some time in your kitchen and then famously went on to copy your dishes. He got caught thanks to images posted on the Internet, but has this experience affected who you let into your kitchen, or if your cooks have to sign anything?
No. I find that silly. Look, the guy came over here and blatantly ripped me and Wylie off. He copied the dishes verbatim. He took them back to Australia. He put them on his menu. The wording on his menu was exactly the same as the wording on our menu. But you know what? He got caught. There's no way that you can get away with something like that. How can you feel proud doing that? I don't understand. You're taking the essence right out of creativity and what we do. If you go and copy somebody's food, then really, what are you doing? You're really belittling yourself to just a rudimentary cook. You're no longer any type of artist. You're not constructing anything. You're just copying. So no, long story short, we still have an open-source policy, we still post photos on our website, we still allow people to come in. We don't make them sign nondisclosures or anything silly like that. If they want to try to steal it, let them steal it. They're not going to get too far.

Who are the people who work for you? Do they come because they really believe in what you do? I imagine you're not just attracting someone who's looking for a way out of college.
No. The kitchen environment here is very intense. It requires a great amount of discipline, a great amount of fortitude. They get here between 11 o'clock and noon, and they're here until two in the morning. It's an immense amount of work in a very strict, almost military-like, environment. It's difficult. We're trying to perform at the highest level with an extreme amount of professionalism. We get people from all over the world, and from all over the United States, the East Coast, West Coast. The ones who really understand what we're trying to accomplish here are excited by the use of making new techniques in an effort to bring forth some creativity in cooking, but yet they also understand that our primary focus is to make food that's delicious and in a way that's very appealing. A lot of them end up try to apply and get a job here after they've eaten here because the overall experience, the architecture of the restaurant, the design of the restaurant, the way the service interacts with the guests, the food, the wine pairing, everything creates this experience that, hopefully, is very enjoyable and very unique and very original. That's ultimately what I think wins most of them over and they realize that we have something here that is largely different than what they can find in too many restaurants in this country.

I was impressed at the attention to detail, when eating at Alinea. Nothing was left to chance.
It's critical. When your ambition is to try to be one of the best restaurants in the world, and that's what we aim for, imagine the competition that's out there. Imagine the French Laundry, Per Se, El Bulli, Pierre Gagnaire, Noma, just all these great restaurants that are best in the world right now. It's a great, friendly competition to try to aspire to be as great as some of those restaurants. So you don't want to let any detail go to the wayside. You really have to try to pay attention to everything.

Why is it important to you to be among one of the best restaurants in the world?
That's just the competitive nature of my personality. It's something that I've always aspired to. I think if I wasn't cooking, I would be an architect. And if I was an architect, I would always want to aspire to be the best architect that I could possibly be. I've always had that personal trait. Whenever I played sports when I was young, I always wanted to win. It's just a drive. It's just this internal bug that you have that keeps pushing you forward. And it can be a very positive thing. The result of that is attention to detail and, hopefully, a really unique experience. I don't think it's a bad thing. Sometimes, it can become very frustrating because you realize that you can never create a perfect restaurant. You can never create a perfect dish. So in some cases, it becomes a little bit more frustrating than anything. But I think the goal to try to be a great restaurant is a very ambitious one, and I think it's commendable. I think it's very difficult.

Does that make you difficult to work with?
No. I don't think so. Not if you, yourself, kind of buy into that philosophy. If you fight the system, then you shouldn't be here anyway. You have to believe wholeheartedly in what we're trying to accomplish. And if you do, then you're actually energized by it. You're actually excited and invigorated and you're glad to be a part of it. But if you're a person who really, it doesn't matter much to you if you work in a great restaurant, you can just go work anywhere and make your money, punch in, punch out, and go home, then this restaurant's not the place for you anyway. So then, yeah, if you have that attitude, then I'm pretty difficult to work with.

Do you have people who've started working for you and it just didn't work out? Or are you able to screen early on?
I think we do a pretty good job of screening people. We make them come in and work a couple of days before they're hired. And either they realize that it's going to be too much work and too intense and they don't want to do it, it's not a good personal fit, or we realize that they should probably go work somewhere else. So usually we do pretty well at finding the right people.

You've talked a little bit about what has influenced you and all that or what makes a restaurant unique. How do you define your cooking philosophy, if you have such a thing?
That's always the most difficult thing to answer because, for one, it often changes. But like I said before, what I'm interested in is creativity, constant pushing of the new, constant evolution, not sitting still for us, and creating an emotional experience. We want people to come in and feel a certain way about eating. I love it when we can make people think about food differently. When they pick up something that is aromatic and they eat it and they have these nostalgic feelings about their childhood. It's just maybe give it a more cerebral level, where they're actually thinking about what they're doing as opposed to just this monotonous action of consuming food, which we do three or four times a day all of our life. It just becomes so repetitive that you really don't even think about it. It just becomes this natural thing. What we're trying to create is much more than that. We're trying to make you stop and take notice. And certainly, it has to be delicious and we want you to enjoy it and it has to be fun, but maybe it should make you feel a certain way. Maybe you should giggle. Maybe you should be intimidated by food. Maybe it should make you think about it before you eat it. Kind of our whole thing is that people take it for more than just food.

You used the word “artist” before. Do you consider yourself an artist?
Yes. I don't think there's anything wrong with considering people who cook a certain way or for a certain reason artists. Art, to me, is anything that creates an emotional reaction or response. And I think that by crossing the line of just feeding people for satiation, what we have done here, all of the aspects that we've incorporated, add up to a sum of an artistic presentation. The collaboration with [designer] Martin [Kastner], making food almost an edible sculpture, having this industrial stainless steel sculpture come together with an organic-looking piece of food to form this one object that is homogenous and has function and purpose, and then being able to consume part of it, to me, it is art. I maybe use the term a little bit too loosely. I don't know. But, to me, certain things are very artistic. The way people move, there's a certain level of finesse. People think of art and they just think of photography and paints and drawings and that's simply not the case. There can be artistic qualities found in many, many things. It doesn't have to be just your common forms of artistic construction. Why can't an architect be an artist? If a particular building makes you take notice and feel a certain way because of the stylistic forms and the lines and the materials and the textures and the colors, certainly, that's art. But some people might just say, oh, he's an architect. A fine craftsman, a fine carpenter who creates this beautiful table or beautiful cabinet with creative lines and beautiful textures, that's art too. So, to me, the whole debate of whether cooking is a craft or an art simply boils down to the focus of the person executing it. If it's my grandmother and she's making meatloaf to feed her 11 kids in 1965, I doubt very highly that there was too much artistic focus going to there. Conversely, I think if you look at what Ferran does on a nightly basis, I think you have no choice but to consider it art. It's not just about the high concept nature of it; it becomes very obvious which people are actually trying to express something with food as a medium versus just giving people something to eat. It becomes very obvious when they're trying to communicate through their food.

Accusations of elitism appear around the type of cooking that you do. How do you respond to people who tell you that it's not accessible to all, perhaps even strictly financially speaking?
That's unfortunate. I agree with that. We're an expensive restaurant. There's a reason why we're expensive, because it costs a lot of money to do what we do. People think that we're expensive because we can charge it and people will pay it because of our reputation or the awards that we have won. No. Anybody who walks in the restaurant and looks into that kitchen realizes that there's 26 people back there and they're all getting paid [laughs]. No one's ever working for free. People expect and demand high-quality ingredients, organic ingredients, ingredients that come from a farm that only produces five pounds of butter a week. People love that. They expect it. They demand it. They also don't know what that costs. With all of these things come high cost and high overhead. So you have to charge for it. That's one disadvantage of what we do, is that it does cost a lot and we do have to charge a lot. You exclude a certain amount of people. However, what people don't realize is that when you walk into this restaurant, you don't need to be a foodie in order to enjoy it. You don't need to have this great understanding of gastronomy in order to really understand what we're doing, because we're trying to speak to people on a more emotional level. Everybody's going to have their own feeling about what they're experiencing. A couple months ago or half a year ago or something, we had a woman who was celebrating her 80th birthday come in. And her daughter asked her, "Mom, where do you want to go for your birthday?" and she goes, "I read about this restaurant in Lincoln Park called Alinea that's really doing some interesting things. I want to go see that. I want to go experience that." So this 80-year-old woman came in with her daughter and her granddaughter for dinner and she came back to the kitchen to meet me after her meal. She said "I've lived for 80 years and I've never experienced anything like that before. It was the most memorable meal of my life." She's not a foodie. In her life, she's seen everything. She's seen the Great Depression. She's seen the onslaught of American cooking through the '50s and '60s. She doesn't bounce around at Trotter's, Avenues, Alinea, or Moto. She's not one of those people. She just sat down and had an experience that spoke to her because she was willing to let it come to her, willing to soak it in. People have this conception that you have to be like an academic foodie in order for you to enjoy what we do, in order for you to understand it. That's just simply not true.

That must make it so worth it to do what you do when you hear those types of stories.
I would rather hear those than the guy who was in last night, who flew from New York yesterday morning, landed in Chicago, at 5:30, he went to Moto and had dinner there. He came over here at 9:30, straight from Moto, and had dinner here. He had 25 courses here. Then he got up today and flew back to New York. The whole reason for his trip was just to eat at these two restaurants. He talked about how great it was and all of this and that. And that's great. I'm glad we can appeal to that person, too. But it's almost more rewarding to hear the woman that's 80 years old say it's the best meal that she's ever had in her life. That's pretty cool.

Why is it important to have your menu broken down into 26 or so dishes, rather than just 5 or 10?
It's a matter of telling a story. People can come here and order 12 courses if they want. It depends on how long you want to be here. How long do you want the story to last? How long do you want to sit down in that chair and experience the movie, quote unquote? If you want it to be two and a half hours, then get the 12 course. If you want to spend four hours here, then get the tour. Obviously, the more courses we give you, within reason, the more expressive it's going to be, the more opportunity we have to show you different things and different techniques and different sensations and emotions and flavors and textures. I think it makes it a more complex experience. But that's really the choice of the guest. If we did a three course meal, if I gave you two savory courses and a dessert, I couldn't possibly tell you the story that you want to hear. It just would be impossible.

How do you decide on the progression of the menu?
It's largely based on a synergy with the wine pairings. We start out by the understanding that it's good to go from sweet to savory, from sweet to savory, from sweet to savory instead of just going all savory then ending with sweet. It breaks up the monotony. Physiologically, it works because your body needs sugar at certain points. So if we interject some dessert courses in the middle, it'll actually make you a little bit more alert and awake and feel less full. It's just that varied approach, that breaking up the monotony. If you're sitting down for dinner for four hours, that becomes important. We really want you to be alert, to feel good about what you're doing as opposed to just slogging through another savory course and one after another after another.

And then, like I said, the synergy with the wine pairing is very important. The bridging of courses, the flavor profiles, the repetition of certain techniques and textures, that will all determine how dishes are presented together or paired next to each other. There are many, many reasons why we choose to organize the menu the way we do. All of these things kind of collide together and help shape the menu.

Do you ever turn over the menu all at once?
No, that would be impossible. Right now, we're starting to transition and do some more spring-like dishes---slowly because it's not really spring here in Chicago, unfortunately. So this week we introduced three new dishes. We do one a day, basically. Because there's so much training that has to go into it. Literally, we have to come up with a dish. We have to conceptualize it. We have to refine it. We have to get it to the point where we feel it's ready to serve to the customer. Once we get it to that point, we have to give it to Joe [Catterson], the wine director, so that he can pair an appropriate wine with it. He orders the wine. Once the wine arrives, then we have the green light to serve it to the guest. But first, we have to train the front of the house because, as you know, some of the food requires explanation; not just basic explanation. Everybody should know every element that's in the dish so they can explain it. But some cases, we can tell people the best way to eat it to get the maximum satisfaction out of it. So then we have to actually have the front of the house team taste it so that they can get a better understanding of what we're trying to accomplish. So that takes a couple of days. And then, finally, we put it on the menu. Then it goes through a period of refining at that point as well. So it's a tremendous amount of work just to get one new dish on the menu. It takes us a couple of weeks to get an entirely new menu on.

Are you at the origin of every new dish, or how does that work?
Primarily, how it works is that I will come up with an idea, and I'll write down some details, some notes on a notepad. I'll sketch out how I think it's going to look. And then, typically, I'll work very closing with my chef de cuisine, Jeff [Pikus], and he'll start working on the components of the dish. Once he has all the components, we'll get together and create the dish in its entirety for the first time together. Then we'll just communicate and continue that with dialogue and refine it until we feel it's ready. So, really, my role now is more of kind of the idea generator and kind of the creative kind of supervisor. I have the initial vision for the dish. I have the initial creative concept. Then I'll try to delegate some of the actual cooking and technique to him or to one of the sous-chefs and then we will all get together and talk about the result and how we can refine the finished product.

And how does the collaboration with Martin play a role in each new dish? You can't just pick up any plate in your kitchen and serve that dish.
Right. The collaboration with Martin and I, basically, if I am visualizing a dish that I know is going to require a certain service piece that we don't currently have, then I'll go to him and say I need something that is going to support the function of this food. Like, it needs to stand vertically. Or it needs to help this dish or this bite of food remain very cold for a long period of time. So then he attacks it from a functional design standpoint and comes up with a solution. Or I'll go to him and say look, I have this unique new food combination; let's try to create a service piece around it to support its esthetic or to make it interact with the guest or force some interaction in a certain way, make them eat with their hands or make them not eat with their hands at all or whatever it is. That's kind of how our collaboration works. At times, he'll come to me with an idea. He'll say, "I have an idea based on just the mechanics of eating. I've been thinking about table service and eating and I have this idea for a service piece. What kind of food do you want to put on it?" Sometimes, it happens like that as well.

What inspires a particular dish?
Everything. The world. I think being creative, to me, is about being very aware of your surroundings and being very aware of what's going on in the world. We can have an organic farmer from Michigan walk in the back door with a case of beautiful tomatoes, and that might inspire a dish. Or, I might be listening to a particular song, and hear a drastic tempo change, and that might generate an idea for a dish. Or be walking outside in the fall and walk on some dead leaves that crunch under my feet, and that might inspire a dish. I might be walking through an art gallery and see a particular texture or a particular form; that might inspire something. Martin might inspire something with the service that he comes to me with. It's just endless. It just comes from everywhere. There's no real template or documented way that we come up with dishes. It's just random. It's spontaneous.

It's great to hear you talk about farmers from Michigan for many people, it's either technology or local ingredients. They don't understand that if you don't start with a good product, you're not going to have a good dish at the end.
Right. In today's day and age, if you're a chef and you don't source high-quality ingredients, you're behind the times. People who talk about organic and sustainable and artisan, those are all passé. Who doesn't do that now? Sure, when Alice Waters was doing that in the late '70s, it was revolutionary because people didn't do that then. But now, in 2008, if you don't spend an enormous amount of your time trying to source quality ingredients from artisanal producers, it's just strange to me. I think everybody does that now. Or, at least, they should. Whether you're cooking like we cook or whether you're cooking like Paul Kahan at Blackbird. It's all about starting with the ingredients.

There's a cluster of people doing really interesting and innovative things that are not taking place elsewhere around the country. How do you explain Chicago?
There are a lot of reasons, I think. One is that for whatever reason, people tend to forget that Chicago has a history of being a city that supports its restaurants. It always had a history of being a great restaurant city, whether people want to believe it or not. Going back to the late '70s when Jean Banchet opened Le Français, it was considered the best French restaurant in the country. It wasn't anything in New York. It was Le Français, just outside of Chicago. And then, in the 80's, you had Jean Joho open Everest, and you had Ambria. And then you had Charlie Trotter come into town in 1987. He's still considered, 20 years later, one of the best chefs in the world. That's unbelievable. What we have here is a combination of things. We have a history. We have a precedent set by some great chefs. We have an approachability and a dining public that is willing to accept restaurants for what they are and their vision. And then there's a certain coincidence to it. When I landed at Trio in 2001 and started cooking like this, nobody in the country was really doing it. Wylie wasn't open at wd~50. Homaro wasn't open at Moto. It was really just us at Trio who were doing kind of modernized cooking. So then, eventually, Homaro decides to open a restaurant. Is he going to put it in New York, where it's a huge risk? Is he going to go to San Francisco where they're typically more rooted in the kind of farm, sustainability-type cuisine? Or is he going to put it in a city where he already knows from watching us cook at Trio that the local tradition, the local dining public are going to support this type of cooking? Well, he's going to put it here. And then when Graham Elliot Bowles decided to open a restaurant or come to Avenues, of course, he's going to choose Chicago because he's watching Alinea, Moto become successful. It just kind of goes on and on and on. And then you have people like Paul Kahan doing Blackbird. You have people like Shawn McClain being incredibly revolutionary when they did Green Zebra. There's no other place in the country like Green Zebra. And it's going to get even more interesting. You have Schwa that just reopened. My old chef de cuisine, Curtis Duffy, went and took Graham Elliot Bowles' old spot at Avenues, and Graham is going to open his own spot in May. So it's getting even bigger, and better.

Do you have time to hang out with other chefs or culinary people?
No. Nobody has time. Occasionally, you'll see them out and about whether they're at the farmers' market or at some bar after work. But no, nobody really has time to hang out or share ideas or talk about stuff. Usually we see each other when we're cooking for events.

But is it important for you to know what other chefs are doing?
Absolutely. You have to try to pay attention to it. If nothing else, to avoid what they're doing. It would be really embarrassing if myself and Wylie were working on some technique that neither one of us know we were working on and then coincidently put out a dish that was very similar. You have to keep an eye on what people are doing and there's always inspiration in that, too.

Tell me a little bit about your cookbook and the website that goes with it.
It's going to be pretty interesting. The book is due out October 15, so you'll see it on bookshelves and in stores then. It's a large book, about 450 pages long. It's going to be basically over 100 dishes straight out of the Alinea kitchen that are going to deal with recipes that are adapted a little bit to the home cook but primarily set up more for the restaurant. They're going to be scaled in grams. The techniques are not really changed much; they're pretty much straight out of the kitchen. We want you to really get the essence and understand what it's like to cook in the kitchen and create the food the way we do here at Alinea. The companion website, the Alinea Mosaic, is going to have recipes that we chose not to put in the book, which will be quite a few. It will have demonstration videos, which we've been filming here for about a year, compiling certain techniques and further explanation. For instance, if you're doing a recipe in the book and you're confused as to what the end result should look like or how a particular technique works, there'll be a companion demonstration videos on the Mosaic where you'll go and click and watch in real time kind of make the dish from start to finish, and it might give you a clear understanding. There'll be additional writing. There'll be a blog where you can write in and ask us requests about the recipe or about the book or anything that you don't understand and we'll answer it. I think that web component is going to be very unique and very interactive. It should bring a great deal of that value and understanding to the book. A lot of times, when you get a cookbook and you're trying to cook all of it, you just don't really understand. This might help that. And it might make people attempt the dishes a little bit more frequently.

In general, can technology be used in the kitchen? In home kitchens, I mean.
Sure. There are certain things that we don't expect people to have in their kitchen. I don't expect you to have a $5,000 Pacojet in your kitchen. But it's not out of the ordinary to go buy a $40 nitrous siphon or go to the corner ice cream shop and get a block of dry ice, which can work just as well as the AntiGriddle. There are only a couple of pieces of equipment that we have in the kitchen that you won't have in your house. People expect the Alinea kitchen to be like a laboratory, but again, there's a Pacojet. There's a rotary meat slicer. Everything else should be able to be purchased. Even when we cook sous vide, now you can get a food saver for $100. You can get a dehydrator for $100. It's really not that prohibitive.

— Anne E. McBride