This week, The New Yorker has an 8,000 word profile of my friend Grant Achatz, the chef at Alinea restaurant in Chicago. As a magazine editor, and as someone who's written about Grant in Wired, it's interesting so read this story. The big difference between this and when I wrote about Grant first is that Grant has gone through an unbelievable battle with mouth cancer.

Three days later, a head-and-neck surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, not far from the restaurant, examined Achatz. He was surprised to see a man with advanced cancer show up for an appointment with his business partner. The doctor explained that the standard treatment would be to remove two-thirds of the visible portion of Achatz’s tongue and sew a piece of tissue, probably from his arm, onto the remnant. Achatz would have a natural-looking tongue, but it would have, at best, limited sensory function. He might even need a tube in order to eat. Achatz says he thought at first that the surgeon was joking: “I’m, like, C’mon, this is 2007. You guys don’t have this figured out by now? It’s, like, barbaric. C’mon, there’s got to be an alternative treatment.”

Achatz and Kokonas left the appointment stunned. Though it was only 10 A.M., they went down the street to a Mexican restaurant and ordered margaritas. Kokonas could already sense that Achatz was not going to let anyone cut out his tongue. Kokonas said, “Let’s attack this like we attacked the restaurant.” He began Googling, looking for an option other than surgery.

It's definitely worth a read. Mentioned several times in the book is the Alinea cookbook, which I'm writing some pieces for. In fact, I'm hoping to finish my final edit today. Weird how timing like that works, huh?

AuthorMark McClusky