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A scene from the movie Blow between Johnny Depp (George), who plays a drug dealer, and his father Ray Liotta (Fred):
I just don’t know what you’re thinking. I don’t understand your choices. You know, the police are looking for you.
I know. I’m great at what I do, Dad. I mean, I’m really great.
Let me tell you something, son. You would have been great at anything.
The thing I’ve learned in the last year of interviewing food personalities is that great chefs, like Depp’s character, would be great at anything they do. Great chefs don’t bow to economic pressure and buy substandard product, poorly sauce plates, or overcook protein when the weeds are high. They adhere to their principles and an idea of quality no matter the consequence.
Great chefs work clean, treat the mincing of rosemary, the segmenting of citrus, and the sweeping of the floor with the same importance as writing a menu and inventing a new dish. Great chefs are always in the moment. Chef Rick Tramonto once told me that Charlie Trotter’s philosophy was that “If everyone in the restaurant came in and did one thing better than they did the day before, then you’d have 50 people doing one thing better each day.” That’s a powerful message and it’s ultimately the hallmark that great chefs strive to do each day better than the one before. Grant Achatz is one of those chefs.
Achatz’s restaurant Alinea was recently named the #1 restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine for many of the reasons outlined above. In this podcast Achatz talks about what it means to be committed to a vision of constant evolution, perfecting something, throwing it away, and starting again. We also talk about customer expectations, why molecular gastronomy isn’t a meaningful label, how family meal or “comida” is different for the Alinea staff, and of course the most important question, what is Achatz favorite Potbelly sandwich?
If you have Adobe Flash installed, you can play the file right on this site, below, by pressing the play button. If not, download the file and play it on your PC or on an MP3 player here: GrantAchatzInterview.mp3