August 31st, 2007

What’s a chef to do without his taste?

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What torture, not only to a chef, but to anyone. Interesting story (free for non-subscribers today only) in the Wall Street Journal about chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago, who was recently diagnosed with tongue cancer.

The disease was so advanced that three doctors told him the only way to cure it was to cut out part of his tongue, leaving one of the world’s most celebrated chefs to ponder life without the ability to taste.

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The tumor had made it so painful to chew that Mr. Achatz couldn’t eat solid food and had lost at least 10 pounds.

Achatz continues to work at Alinea and is getting chemotherapy and radiation treatments in efforts to keep his tongue intact. And those who know him think he can continue even if he suffers a loss of taste.

Much of his acclaim derives from the way his dishes look. Before he cooks a new creation, he writes down the ingredients he wants to use and how he’ll manipulate them. Then, he sketches what it might look like on the plate before discussing it with the chefs who work under him.

“He’s way too connected to what he’s doing to have [a loss of] one of the elements deter him at all.”

Cheers to that. Here’s to a rapid recovery and more creative and beautiful cooking from Achatz.

[tags] Grant Achatz, Alinea, Chicago, taste buds, cancer [/tags]

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