Modernist cuisine explores the senses for dramatic effect.BY WHITNEY BUTLER | PHOTOS BY CHRISTIAN SEEL The restaurateur and chef hopes when guests sit down to eat at his restaurant, Alinea, to enjoy as many as 23 small courses, they remain open to the idea that each plate contains an infinite number of emotionally subjective—and simultaneously delicious—possibilities. In today’s modern kitchen, tasty food is only the beginning. Cuisine should involve all the senses. Achatz compares the experience to walking up to a Picasso or Pollok painting. He hopes that guests feel confident in realizing their own conclusions about his food. In 2006, Achatz’s Chicago restaurant Alinea was named the best restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine. Achatz was hailed for progressive thinking in the kitchen and contemporary appeal to a new generation of curious eaters. This is not your grandmother’s kitchen or familiar food traditions snubbed from the top shelf of classic French technique. Achatz has carved a reputation of ingenuity through his use of molecular gastronomy—or modernist cuisine—combining one part mad science to two parts culinary romance. The recent popularity of creating “food experiences,” whether through ambiance or rare menu offerings, has shaped a competitive landscape of wildly diverse talent in which chefs and restaurants achieve almost celebrity-like status for serving up more than very delicious food. Achatz’s interpretation—a la modernist cuisine—challenges textures and consistency, transforming liquid to solid and solid to liquid in unexpected ways, awakening the visceral possibilities by changing the way people think about their food. He also challenges guests to interact with what they eat, asking them, politely, to please play with their food.
Originally appeared in print February 2014.READ COMPLETE PRINT VERSION