When Alinea opens tonight for rare Monday night service (thanks, NRA show) there will be a 13-year-old in the kitchen. Greg Grossman, of East Hampton, N.Y., joins a growing line of kid foodies, from the 12-year-old kid who helps the chefs at Peasant to the kid critic with a movie deal. Lest we forget, the 2006 James Beard Award for multimedia journalism went to Spatulatta, an online cooking show hosted by preteens from Evanston.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Grant Achatz would open Alinea up to Grossman, who has also attended the James Beard Awards, StarChefs conventions, and now the NRA (with a publicist, natch). "I’ve run into Greg a few times," Achatz told us. "He’s this really genuine, earnest kid who just came up to me and said ‘Hey Chef, it’s an honor to meet you.’ I could tell from the moment I started talking to him that he actually knew what he was talking about – he knew about how we ran the restaurant, about how we cooked. We were talking about other chefs, gastronomy — it was real, it wasn’t just name-dropping. It’s impressive!"
Achatz asked Grossman to come to dinner at Alinea, but was rebuffed. "He said ‘No, I’m too busy’ and I started laughing. It’s something a chef would say — ‘I can’t come to your restaurant, I’ve gotta work’ — and coming from that doe-eyed, big-haired 13-year-old it was just incredible.”
But when Achatz invited Grossman to stage (sort of), the kid wised up. He’s been in the kitchen since noon. He got a grand tour and a coat from a sous chef, and is making his way through the kitchen, station by station. “More than anything, based on his verbal knowledge and his ambition, I’m curious to see how he can cook,” said Achatz. “How are his hands, how does he handle a knife, how does he carry himself in the kitchen? Is he intimidated? I’m curious how he’s going to carry himself in this very macho, driven, very aggressively male kind of environment. We’re going to be incredibly busy tonight — is he going to be intimidated by that and go sit in the corner? Or is he going to roll up his sleeves and say ‘Chef, tell me what to do.’ I’ve got a feeling it’ll be the latter." He’s got plenty of time to show off; Achatz says Grossman is welcome “as long as him mom will let him stay.”
[Photo: Modern Arts of the Culinary World]