We haven’t covered Next for a whole day, so thank God Francis Lam comes along in Gilt Taste, the Ruth Reichl-edited reading/shopping site thing, with a new interview with Grant Achatz. Where Paris 1906 seemed to suggest that Next was forever to be a temple of perfectionism, this presents a surprisingly laidback Achatz who spins ideas off faster than others can keep up, but makes Next Thailand sound more fun and casual and what-the-hey than it had ever sounded before. Some notable insights:
• Paris 1906 gave the wrong impression about how serious Next was about exactly recreating cuisines: “With Escoffier, maybe everyone was going, ‘Ok, they’re going to be locking into a particular place and time.’ But on this menu, we’re also going to do that coconut dessert, a re-imagined pad Thai, serve a rose-flavored dragon fruit. We took liberties with the tom yum, emulsifying in pork fat. It’s kind of Alinea-fied.”
• Will the Thai food have a lasting impact on Achatz’s cuisine? Maybe: “I’m learning so much about layering flavor. Normally, when you cook in the French palate, you have salt, fat, usually some form of acid—citrus, wine. Herbs, spices, but that’s pretty much it. One thing that blew me away was the nam prik pow, the chile shallot relish we’re making. You’re going to get the snap of the chile right off the bat, but the finish is so layered: heavily caramelized garlic, the fish sauce, the acid punch. Not knowing all that much about Thai cooking before, I’m discovering a different way of building flavors.”
• Good chance it will never actually happen, we’d say, but the idea of the El Bulli’s Greatest Hits menu is brilliant, in an endless-mirrors sort of way. Just think how hard that one would be to get into.
Related: Grant Achatz Is Going to Just Start Cooking Other Chefs’ Food [Grub Street NY]