Grant Achatz and the Birth of the Craigslist Restaurant

Apr 8, 2011 at 7:00 am
click to enlarge Life on the Line, a memoir, tells Grant Achatz's remarkable story.
Life on the Line, a memoir, tells Grant Achatz's remarkable story.
It is increasingly common -- and increasingly like shooting fish in a barrel -- to make fun of America's obsession with chefs and restaurants, whether it be something as ridiculous as a porno set in a food truck or satire as cutting as the vignettes in Portlandia.

Sometimes, though, reality points out the absurd far better than any snarky comment can.

Grant Achatz of Chicago's Alinea is widely regarded as one of the best chefs in America -- maybe the best chef, period. His personal story is deeply compelling: He battled stage-four tongue cancer and for a time lost his sense of taste.

His new restaurant, Next, is one of the most intriguing concepts I've seen: a new set menu every three months based on a specific time and place. The first menu, about to debut, is "Paris, 1906." 
(Another menu is supposed to take diners to Hong Kong circa...2036?)

How much is a top chef and a hot new concept worth?

As much as the most obsessive diner with the most disposable income wants it to be worth.

Achatz's new restaurant is different not only in its concept but in its reservations policy. In fact, it doesn't take reservations, per se. Instead, diners purchase one-time-only, nonrefundable tickets in the same manner that you would purchase tickets to a sporting event or Broadway show.

The first batch of these tickets, estimated by Eater at about $85 per person, was just released to those who had registered through the restaurant's website.

The resale prices, on the other hand, can be anywhere from a $500 mystery reservation to a $3,000 ticket for six to the "kitchen table," which features an expanded 16 course meal. The average ticket seems to hover around $1,000 for a table for two.

On the bright side, your drinks and a service charge are already included in the price of the ticket.