What I’m Reading: Grant Achatz’s “Life, On the Line”

I had heard of but did not know anything specific about Grant Achatz and his Chicago restaurant Alinea prior “reading” (i.e., listening to) Life, On the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat.

The book is cleverly and accurately titled, as it tells the story of Achatz’s career as a chef working “on the line” in various kitchens (including for such luminaries as Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller) and it also tells the story of Achatz’s diagnosis of and battle with the cancer that put his life “on the line.” Cruelly ironic was that he develped stage IV squamous cell carcinoma-tongue cancer at the same time that he was being recognized as one of the best chefs in America.

I didn’t realize until I reached his chapter that the book was co-authored with Achatz’s friend and business partner Nick Kokonas. At first I thought, why do I care what the financier has to say? I want to know about the chef and his cooking. But then I realized having Kokonas as a co-author and alternating chapters between Achatz and Kokonas was very clever because it allowed Kokonas to say all of the very flattering things about Achatz that it would have been uncouth for Achatz to say about himself. And given his ability as a chef, those flattering things are a very important part of the story.

Published by David Yamane

Sociologist at Wake Forest U, student of gun culture, tennis player, racket stringer (MRT), whisk(e)y drinker, bow-tie wearer, father, husband. Not necessarily in that order.

2 thoughts on “What I’m Reading: Grant Achatz’s “Life, On the Line”

  1. Hi Kris:You make an interesting point about out-of-the-box inigedrents. I used to categorically rule out any recipe with a highly unusual ingredient because I assumed it would be either too hard to find in the store or it would make the recipe too expensive to bother.But I’ve found that as long as we’re talking one or two inigedrents in non-wallet-melting quantities, those recipes are actually the BEST ones to try, because they are likely to be really interesting and creative and they’ll introduce you to brand new tastes and cuisines. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me excited about cooking at home. Dan

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