Grant Achatz – Why He’s Chasing Greatness and Redefining the Way We EatMar 30th, 2011 | By Clout and About | Category: Author Events, Book Signings, Books, On Our Shelf
Out and About on Assignment: Kaye Cloutman and Lulu Del Rosario
As fellow French Laundry colleagues and friends gathered at Book Passage at the Ferry Building to welcome Chef Grant Achatz together with co-author Nick Kokonas for their book signing event, I imagined San Francisco must be a bit of a homecoming venue for him. Hearing him recalling his first try-out day at the French Laundry, meeting Thomas Keller – who became an esteemed mentor throughout the years – was all brought back to life as if it were just yesterday.
With chef autobiographies in abundance, it seems Life, On The Line (Gotham Books, March 2011, $27.00, 9781592406012, 400 pages) uniquely captures the core meaning of writing an autobiography, due largely to Grant’s real bout with mortality at a young age. I enjoyed the book and took my time reading it. The tale of his journey from cracking eggs at his family diner all the way to his colorful career of prominence in the culinary world left me in such a sublime state.
The book consumes you and it was told in such a friendly manner; I really took pleasure in reading about the evolution of Nick’s instrumental role in Grant’s life. I just knew it was going to be a priceless bond. The friendship between the two authors denotes the kind of impressive alliance anyone could ever wish for and that is exactly how we felt when we met them. His story was especially compelling for me, having endured my own struggles to survive a near-fatal illness, and reading it made me realize once again how magical even the simple things in life can be. I felt as if I had a special understanding of the man based on our shared experiences. Book Passage owner Elaine Petrocelli expressed her overwhelming admiration for the two as well, and a rare appearance from Book Passage Buying Director Sheryl Cotleur was also noted that day.
Overall, this was such a memorable occasion for me and Lulu and we love the dynamic audience which took time out of their busy schedules to be there for Grant and Nick. Fellow authors like Chef Jodi Liano together with long time French Laundry contemporaries like Chef Gregory Short, Chef Kevin Kathman, Chef John Gerber and French Laundry Farmer Peter Jacobsen were some of the more familiar individuals we knew who were among the crowd that day. It felt great to see people you admire all converge in one venue to pay homage to a man that has inspired many with his compelling tale of hope, determination and survival.
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About the Book
“What is amazing to me, a writer who’s been covering this industry since about the time Grant arrived at the French Laundry, is the honesty and jarring frankness with which Grant and Nick write, from every angle—personal, emotional, even financial. Grant’s career, the opening of Alinea, his beating cancer—it’s a hell of a story.”- Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio and The Soul of a Chef
“This is not the cancer story in which the disease makes the guy realize he needs to stop focusing on his work and finally spend time with his two young sons, see his parents more, and reconnect with his former sweetheart. No, this is the cancer story that makes a man realize that his screaming ambition was right the whole time and that if he had only a month to live, he’d better get some stuff done.” – Time Magazine
“Much like sitting down to eat at his groundbreaking restaurant Alinea, reading the story behind Grant Achatz’s life will take you places you never imagined. From his upbringing in a small family restaurant to staring death in the face while winning the title of “Best Chef in the United States,” his is a truly inspiring story—not only as a chef but as a person.” – Eric Ripert, Chef/Owner, Le Bernardin
“As readers and booksellers, we’re always delighted when a book affects us in one overarching way, but when it does so in three or four ways it’s something to behold. Life, on the Line pinned me to my chair. Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas’s book is intense, what I can only think of as the literary equivalent of Grant’s food—surprising and unique. … Ultimately, the book is a candid testament to a phenomenal creative drive joined with a phenomenal will to live. This Life is stunning.”- Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
“Life, on the Line is easily one of my favorite food memoirs of all time. It’s honest and powerful. For those of us in the book industry, the lessons they teach about the perfection possible in ceaseless change that’s solidly grounded in hard work are essential.” - Michael Barnard, Owner & General Manager, Rakestraw Books, “The Bookstore in Danville”, Danville, CA
In 2007, chef Grant Achatz seemingly had it made. He had been named one of the best new chefs in America by Food & Wine in 2002, received the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year Award in 2003, and in 2005 he and Nick Kokonas opened the conceptually radical restaurant Alinea, which was named Best Restaurant in America by Gourmet magazine. Then, positioned firmly in the world’s culinary spotlight, Achatz was diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma-tongue cancer.
The prognosis was grim, and doctors agreed the only course of action was to remove the cancerous tissue, which included his entire tongue. Desperate to preserve his quality of life, Grant undertook an alternative treatment of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. But the choice came at a cost. Skin peeled from the inside of Grant’s mouth and throat, he rapidly lost weight, and most alarmingly, he lost his sense of taste. Tapping into the discipline, passion, and focus of being a chef, Grant rarely missed a day of work. He trained his chefs to mimic his palate and learned how to cook with his other senses. As Kokonas was able to attest: The food was never better. Five months later, Grant was declared cancer-free, and just a few months following, he received the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef in America Award.
Life, on the Line tells the story of a culinary trailblazer’s love affair with cooking, but it is also a book about survival, about nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. Already much- anticipated by followers of progressive cuisine, Grant and Nick’s gripping narrative is filled with stories from the world’s most renowned kitchens-The French Laundry, Charlie Trotter’s, el Bulli- and sure to expand the audience that made Alinea the number-one selling restaurant cookbook in America last year.
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