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Comment: There is no writing or highlighting throughout the book. The pages & cover have some wear. Overall, the book is in really good condition.
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Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat Paperback – March 6, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this curious memoir, chef Achatz and his business partner, Kokonas tell of their Chicago restaurant, Alinea, as well as his cancer diagnosis and recovery. Achatz grew up in Michigan in and around restaurants, the only child of a troubled marriage who spent an otherwise contented adolescence around kitchens. He eventually attended the Culinary Institute of America and studied with Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller with whom he began developing both his palate and culinary vision. He returned to Chicago, where he met Kokonas, who became his business partner in 2005, when they opened Alinea. As Alinea evolves from drawing board to reality, the narrative alternates between the two men's voices. They discuss finding the right team of chefs and dealing with Achatz's diagnosis with stage IV tongue cancer. The various narratives--childhood, professional development, Alinea, Kokonas, illness--have individual strengths, but the whole feels oddly disjointed and in places, such as the section on the restaurant's genesis and development, turn into more of a business how-to. Nevertheless, the authors duly convey their passion as well as a solid business philosophy. (Mar.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This must-read for the culinary crowd is the literary equivalent of caviar and Krug. Foodies will marvel at Achatz�s thought process on his molecular creations, while Kokonas provides a detailed glimpse of the artistic vision and creation of modern fine dining. The book takes readers into the passionate environment of a revolutionary kitchen, and through the eyes of the authors we are introduced to the future of gastronomy. Achatz�s battle had its time in the �weeds��his troubles with food writers, family relationships, and stage IV tongue cancer�but with perseverance and fortitude, he became one of the most controversial and respected chefs, ultimately opening what some critics call the best restaurant in North America, Chicago�s Alinea. Kokonas was first introduced to the prodigy at Trio, where Achatz started his executive-chef career. After dining on hundreds of dexterous courses, Kokonas decided to stop gambling on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and create a restaurant with the then 29-year-old, and what began as a business venture became an indispensable friendship. --Brian Lesson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592406971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406975
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
By the age of 32 Grant Achatz, chef/owner of Alinea, had achieved his dream of having the best restaurant in American and, along the way, had completely redefined not only the dining experience but how we think about food and eating. In this book, Chef Achatz, along with Nick Kokonas (his business partner in Alinea and a first-time restaurateur), describes the path he took to reach his goal. If the story ended there, it would be an amazing story of hard work and sacrifice coupled with sheer genius and the audacity to succeed at all costs. The story takes a totally different turn when Chef Achatz is diagnosed with stage IV cancer of the tongue and is faced with the heart-rending choice of risking his sense of taste, and with it his livelihood and identity as a chef, in an attempt to save his life.

Though it sounds cliche, this book transcends genre and audience. For those interested in cooking and the life of a chef, it ranks alongside the works of Michael Ruhlman and Anthony Bourdain as the best in the genre. As a business book, it is a tremendous inspiration for the budding entrepreneur (or for a successful businessperson who is in the midst of doubt) and shows the power of making an audacious goal then driving forward to reach it. Above all it is the story of the extraordinary life of an extraordinary person as he strives to grow, succeed, live, and love. Chef Achatz has shown that he holds himself (and his staff) to the highest standards, and this book does not disappoint in any way. In short, the best book I've read in a very long time. Very highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Behind the allure of Alinea, an intangible experience for many normal Americans, lies the story of Grant Achatz.

His story is moving, witty, driven, and honest (with a hint of that chef ego that we all know is there). It doesn't pretend to be something it isn't, and opens up a world of food that would otherwise go unilluminated to the general public.

I am thankful for the experience of reading this book. It was a great read.

Oh, and I'm thankful that someone slipped a phonetically-correct definition of Achatz into the book. That did not go unnoticed or unappreciated. After mainly reading about Chef Achatz online, I was grateful for that small formality.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book in two days, i couldnt put it down. I am a cook myself and love to hear stories from the greats on the roads they traveled.This should be a mandatory read for all culinary students. Inspiring, heart wrenching, and overall great to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Sorry, I don't need a caviar egg balanced from the head of a pin. Nor a reduction of stuffed truffle served from a swinging trapeze. Or essence of broccoli reduction dropped from the end of a laboratory pipette. Nor do I need a four and a half hour dinner with 32 courses weighing in at $195. You've got to be kidding me.

For those who love haute cuisine, though, who don't mind their dinner be prepped in something that looks more like a chemist lab than a kitchen, you will likely love restaurants like Alinea.

Regardless of the type of food, A LIFE ON THE LINE is, for the most part, a compelling read. Co-author Grant Achatz has a burning vision of what he wants to do in food, in cooking and in creating a complete dining experience. He works tirelessly to bring this vision to life. Management guru Tom Peters has said that anybody who created anything great was a megalomaniac on a mission. That fits Achatz. The guy burns his candle at both ends as he translates his culinary vision into one of the world's top restaurants.

So, even if you are not "into" this type of food or dining, the story is compelling for the message that you must work hard and relentlessly to achieve something great. Added to the professional challenges is the health crisis that confronted Achatz. He learns that he has cancer of the tongue and must reassess his life's priorities.

Here is where the phrase, "Life on the Line" offers a telling pun. On the one hand, most of the book describes Achatz's life as a line cook and chef. Once he learns of his diagnosis and the grim prognosis, his life literally is on the line as he gives himself over to the rigors of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love memoirs of any kind and this book is great! I love to cook and have always been curious about how great chefs think, and this book is very well written. Kudos to Grant Atchez for sharing his life, the good and the difficult!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a seven night a week restaurant goer but not especially a fan of molecular cooking I was very curious about the Chef and the way he thinks. The book answers all of that in a beautifully written manner. The juxtaposed telling of the story by Achatz's business partner was brilliantly handeled. I loved the book and have given it to several of my favorite chefs who will likely feel the same way. It seems brutally honest and as a result completely believeable.
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From one point of view it's tempting to think of Grant Achatz as someone who has been very lucky. But on reflection it's quite clear that luck has had relatively little to do with his successes. Here's a guy who knew what he wanted to do and put forth the drive, ambition, skill, and pure unending WORK needed to achieve his goals.

His story is very well written and makes a very enjoyable read. I teared up a bit several times, from both the lows and the highs.

The events in this book could describe a very successful and complete life if they applied to anyone else, but Chef Achatz comes out at the end only in his mid-30s, with a foundation that will let him achieve whatever he can imagine in the future. While some people may indeed burn out twice as fast by "burning the candle at both ends", Grant Achatz is proof that if you work twice as hard, you may simply achieve twice as much.

Cook's memoirs are a dime-a-dozen these days, but this is a book that transcends the genre and will be enjoyed by everyone.

An easy five stars.

This review is based on the Kindle edition, and from also looking at the physical book in person there are hardly any illustrations in the book so you're not missing anything if you choose to go the Kindle route.

Another reviewer commented about the confusing switch back and forth between the points of view of Grant and his business partner Nick once they meet and start working on the building of Alinea. Pretty much if you see a break in the text then the POV is switching, but you have to read a paragraph or three before you're really sure who is speaking. It would have been much smoother if they had simply inserted the name of whoever was picking up the story each time there was a shift.
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