Grant Achatz is a superstar. He's one of the few chefs, like Ferran Adria of the recently shuttered El Bulli or Wylie Dufresne of WD-50, for whom the term "molecular gastronomy" seems not so much inaccurate as inadequate. His restaurant Alinea has helped make Chicago one of, if not the most exciting food cities in America, and it was recently named the seventh best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino. Add to all that an amazing life story—Achatz announced in 2007 that he was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue (he's now in remission)—and you've got a guy foodies will follow forever.
Foodies (I know, it's a fingernails-on-a-blackboard name, but the alternatives are hyphenated and awkward) are more than just people who love a good meal. They're fans, just like sports fans, music fans, and film buffs. They follow chefs like one follows a band or director, and the opening of a new restaurant is a bigger deal than any new album or film—many top-name chefs will have only one or two in a lifetime. So Achatz's film trailer teaser for his next restaurant, cleverly named Next Restaurant, makes perfect sense. It begins "From the creators of Alinea," and reservations will be...well, not reservations, exactly. They'll be tickets, bought in advance, in full, like you would for a concert, ballgame or movie.
The trailer for Next Restaurant hit yesterday, and it's a bit of a puzzler. It takes you through some classic and some unexpected times and places, including Paris, 1912; Hong Kong, 2036; Sicily, 1949; and Cajun, 1977. Turns out Next will be a world cuisine restaurant, with several different menus per year. From the site's FAQ:
Next Restaurant will serve four menus per year from great moments in culinary history – or the future. Our team of chefs will investigate, test, refine, and present authentic menu interpretations from cultures, places and times. Depending on the cuisine, meals will be 5 to 6 courses and will include food, beverage pairings, and service.
It'll also be startlingly affordable, given the restaurant's pedigree. An entire prix fixe will cost between $40 and $75, with wine costing an additional $25—far less than one might expect.
The movie format of the trailer works especially well given Achatz's star power and his food, which is designed to be as entertaining as it is tasty. Perhaps his best-known dish, the first bite Alinea ever served, is a play on the classic PB&J sandwich—"a single peeled grape, still on the stem, encased in peanut butter and wrapped in paper-thin brioche." Said Achatz in an interview with Chicagoist:
We really look at the whole thing as a block of time. We can cook individual meals or dishes. But for us, we’re trying to entertain, captivate, insatiate, all of those things combined into one experience for x amount of time. We have you in the chair for between two to six hours. What are we doing with that time? Well, we’re going to try to entertain you.
The movie trailer isn't so strange, really. When you hear foodies talk about "the new Grant Achatz restaurant" in the same way film buffs talk about "the next Wes Anderson movie," you get it. It's an event, a new artistic project. And I want to see it.
Next will open (hopefully, says the site's FAQ) in Fall 2010.