Back of the House

Grant Achatz Cooks With His Nose

Photo: Lara Kastner/The Atlantic

In his latest meditation on the elements of wine pairing, Grant Achatz talks about how losing his sense of taste due to radiation therapy led to superhero-esque act of creating dishes using his sense of scent alone. One day his sense of taste just wasn’t there anymore. “I grabbed 5 tasting spoons, walked over as casually as possible to the stove and randomly tasted a few of the pots simmering away. Nothing. I grabbed a pinch of salt, put it directly on my tongue, and it tasted–no, felt–like slowly dissolving sand. And just like that my sense of taste was gone.” But from great obstacles comes great innovation.

Instead of walking away from the kitchen, Achatz realized that he could draw on his experience as a vineyard apprentice to pair flavors based on the aroma of various ingredients. “The seemingly odd pairing of dark chocolate and soy sauce made sense only because the two focal ingredients shared a similar aroma profile. … Without the ability to taste, dishes were still created. Aroma became the sole creative impetus.

When a Chef Can’t Taste His Food [The Atlantic]

Grant Achatz Cooks With His Nose