Source: The Atlantic
I recently read Chef Grant Achatz's moving memoir, Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat, co-authored with Nick Kokonas, his business partner at Alinea. Chef Achatz grew up working in his family's diner in Michigan, first as "chief egg cracker" and then line cook. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Achatz had a brief stint at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago. He later became Thomas Keller's protege at The French Laundry, where he was motivated by the discipline and drive that the chefs and cooks possessed. Keller sent Achatz to Spain to experience Ferran Adria's revolutionary techniques at El Bulli.
Eager to cook in his own style, Achatz left TFL to be a chef at Trio, just outside of Chicago, where he was named the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef in 2003. Soon after, he teamed up with Nick Kokonas, a Trio regular and former derivatives trader, to build Achatz's dream restaurant. Achatz and Kokonas shared the vision of creating the world's best restaurant, and both men demonstrated that with drive and hard work they would succeed at all costs, bringing their dream to fruition.
In 2007, Achatz was diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer and was told that if he didn't have surgery or start treatment immediately, he would die. Achatz fought hard, attacking the cancer with the same determination with which he and Nick built the restaurant. While undergoing treatment at the University of Chicago, Achatz kept Alinea running at full capacity and remained as engaged as possible with the kitchen, even drafting prototypes for new dishes late into the night. Miraculously, he recovered and is cancer free.
And in 2010, Alinea was named the best restaurant in North America and number 7 in the world.
His courageous story as a chef, a businessman, and a cancer survivor has left me inspired.