Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

The year's most celebrated chef

It was a story so rich with novelistic irony that news outlets from Fox News to The New Yorker paid attention: an acclaimed chef, a man whose very livelihood depended on his palate, had lost his sense of taste because of tongue cancer. Grant Achatz, 34, is the Chicago wunderkind who runs one of the nation's most esteemed temples of molecular gastronomy, Alinea. About five years ago, Achatz (rhymes with packets) noticed a strange bump on his tongue. After some false diagnoses, he learned it was Stage IV cancer. Thanks to a controversial treatment, he survived, and his sense of taste has almost entirely returned. In June, Achatz won the James Beard Foundation's coveted Outstanding Chef Award, and more recently he was a judge in the Thanksgiving episode of Bravo's Top Chef. Those who can't get a table at Alinea can drool over Achatz's new molecular-gastronomy cookbook.