Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea - Biography

Chicago, IL

August 2014

Grant Achatz started simply: flipping eggs at his parents’ small Michigan restaurant. From there, he leap-frogged to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated with honors. Achatz then took on the Chicago stagier circuit, including a stint at Charlie Trotter’s, followed by a tour of some of Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants.

But it wasn’t until his four-year post under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry that Achatz really hit his stride, learning, as he puts it, “how to cook and how to live life.” Two years in, he was sous chef. During his time there, he took a one-year hiatus from the kitchen to work as an assistant winemaker at La Jota Vineyards. And in 2000, a brief but revelatory stage at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli helped crystallize Achatz’s future an an American culinary leader.

At 26, Achatz was ready to cook on his own terms, accepting his first executive chef position at Trio in Evanston, Illinois. Four years at Trio not only earned Achatz plenty of praise, but also the attention of Nick Kokonas, who would become Achatz’s partner in the creation of Alinea. Alinea helped revolutionize the Chicago restaurant scene. It also quickly gained national and international attention,  landing on San Pelligrino’s “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list and earning Achatz James Beard’s “Outstanding Chef” Award in 2008. The ripples of his imaginative approach reverberated across the country, and all eyes were on Achatz as he opened Aviary and the shape-shifting Next. Building on that success and innovation, Achatz is planning another much-anticipated project for the Fulton Market neighborhood.

A cultural touchstone, Achatz’s influence reaches beyond the kitchen. In 2010, he co-authored his memoir Life, on the Line. Achatz also teamed up with Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for its Science & Cooking lecture series, and was recently featured in Joseph Levy’s documentary “Spinning Plates.”