Food Writing

Nagrant’s Inside Look at Achatz

The reviews are about to start rolling in for Grant Achatz’s memoir, Life, On the Line, which is officially being released tomorrow. This column by Michael Nagrant is less of a review, and more of a look back, but it’s really captivating. Nagrant wrote one of the introductions for the Alinea cookbook, and provides a little bit more insight into Achatz and what it was like to watch him work. He writes, “I wish I could say I write as a friend, the ultimate insider,” but admits that “few really know Achatz that way.” Luckily, Nagrant was able to see how Achatz controlled the kitchen while he had cancer, and it makes for a striking passage.

Nagrant had decided he needed to watch a full service to “inform my writing on the book.” After seven hours of watching service, Achatz said he could leave, but Nagrant decided to stay to watch the end of service. Finally, Achatz left after 11:30 p.m., but Nagrant could tell he wasn’t happy about leaving:

I’m positive he wanted me to go home because he wanted to outlast me. And frankly, he did. I’d rolled in around 4pm at the end of prep. He’d been there since noon. My calf muscles ached a bit from all that standing, but he was near death and he was still kicking my ass.

Staying Power: Personal observations on Grant Achatz’s “Life, on the Line” [NewCity Resto]

Nagrant’s Inside Look at Achatz