My favorite quote from LIFE, ON THE LINE is, “You can’t decide to turn creativity on or off. All you can do is present yourself with interesting problems and try to find solutions.” This insight from Chef Grant Achatz captures his approach to cooking and partly explains why by the age of 30 he was one of the most acclaimed chefs in America: he wasn’t merely a great cook; he used his imagination to create dishes that represented the essence of the food.
Ironically, this quote might also refer to Achatz’s personal situation: In 2005, he and co-author Nick Kokonas opened Alinea (named for the backward “p” symbol that indicates a new paragraph or a new train of thought), and Gourmet magazine named it Best Restaurant in America. Not long after that, Achatz was diagnosed with stage IV tongue cancer and was told that he needed to have his tongue removed and would never taste food again.
The story of how he became a chef and how he handled his illness is engrossing, inspiring, and poignant. By the end of the book, I felt like I really knew him.
I don’t want to give everything away. But I will say this: Achatz is still alive and still cooking. And even though I’ve never met him, that pleases me greatly.