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The Best Lines From Eater National's Series on Achatz and Kokonas Projects

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Photos: Barry Brecheisen

This week, Eater National ran an extensive four-part interview series with Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, Dave Beran, Charles Joly, Andrew Brochu, Mike Begale and Eric Rivera exploring the collaborative creative process at Alinea, The Aviary, and Next. Read the full interviews here, here, here and here; what follows are the best lines.

Grant Achatz on how he spends his time: "I would even say that creatively I'm more involved with Next and Aviary than I am here at Alinea."

Alinea chef de cuisine Mike Begale on legacy: "I want to say that I've been a participant in something revolutionary or successful. I think that's the most important thing nowadays for a professional chef is to hopefully say that we've put a mark down."

Grant Achatz on Mike Begale's responsibilities as chef de cuisine: "I consider him the executive chef now...he's running the ship. Now I'm juggling these three (restaurants) — well, soon to be four and five — so it's a whole different skillset for me."

Grant Achatz on staying original: "It's like everybody is into the theatrics of dining now. Either you're eating live ants or you're in a theater. I feel like everybody is conforming to each other. So we're trying to break away from following and come up with something new."

Grant Achatz on possible changes at Alinea: " I think we're getting to that point where we need to reinvent. We're talking about remodeling the restaurant."

Grant Achatz on the importance of Michelin: "It's really important for the team to get those three stars for morale. It would be hard to go from three to one or three to zero for everybody who comes in here 16 hours a day and bleeds for this restaurant."

Mike Bagale on expectations: "Right now I think people expect borderline miracles from us."

Andrew Brochu on working at other restaurants and why he came back: "I always found myself almost singled out, almost fighting to push whatever we were doing in a direction that I learned from Chef and Nick. And I always found myself on the losing side where certain things would trump the integrity or what my vision was."

Grant Achatz on hiring Charles Joly: "We knew that he was established, very obviously talented, but would help us take Aviary to a different level. And I think that was what he's accomplished."

Nick Kokonas on the creative discussions: "They're broad conceptual conversations, emails often. And then you let smart people be smart."

Nick Kokonas on ideas: "(We) never say that something's impossible. We just say we haven't figured out quite how to do it yet."

Charles Joly on details: "Someone might not notice one moment of a three-hour experience, but if there's a hundred of those moments then you're blown away. It's a "devil is in the details" type thing, but to the furthest degree. Always pushing for every bit of it to be as perfect as possible."

Dave Beran on support at Next: "They were gonna push me to do as much as I could, but not let me fail."

Dave Beran on menu planning at Next: "The goal is from four weeks into a menu, I should have books laid out in front of me and I should be taking notes and Googling and eating at every Thai restaurant in the city. Eight weeks into a menu, I'm at the halfway point. I try to present Chef with a template or he'll come to me with ideas or things that he's seen. Usually by week 12, I'm putting food on a plate. And then hopefully by week 14, the menu is done."

Nick Kokonas on making things happen: "I don't know of anywhere else I've worked where you can gather up a group of people whose general attitude is, 'Okay. Yeah. Let's go do it.' Frankly, the rest of the world tends not to work that way."

Grant Achatz on the learning process at Next: "[For] the cooks back there, it's like getting your PhD in cooking because every three months they get to learn new techniques, a new historic point in gastronomy, and use new tools."

Eric Rivera on how he got his job: "I was harassing him as much as I could to at least get here. I was in the middle of opening a restaurant in Seattle [and] I came back and said, 'Well, I gotta go.' So basically two weeks [later], I settled everything up there, sold all my stuff, packed up my car, drove over with my knives, my books and some clothes, and then started working at Alinea."

Nick Kokonas on Next pricing: "These guys get mad at me for pricing [the menu] so low. I want to blow people's minds."

Nick Kokonas on the benefits of the ticket system: "We're operating at 100 percent capacity and therefore we can invest more into each menu and we can do more at a lower price point."

Andrew Brochu on the food at The Aviary: "The thought process over there is how do I serve bar food that you can't get in any other bar, but still fits the mold of what you would get at a bar."

· Part One: The Alinea Team on Creativity and Collaboration [-E-]
· Part Two: Grant Achatz and The Aviary Team on Cocktails and Group Creativity [-E-]
· Part Three: The Next Team on Making Decisions [-E-]
· Part Four: How the Teams Behind Alinea, Next, and The Aviary Collaborate [-E-]
· All Grant Achatz Coverage [-ECHI-]

The Aviary

955 N. Morgan St & W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 Visit Website

Next Restaurant

953 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607 312 226 0858 Visit Website


1723 North Halsted Street, , IL 60614 Visit Website