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Showing 1-10 of 126 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 156 reviews
on March 3, 2011
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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on March 6, 2011
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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on April 28, 2017
This is a fascinating book!

A very open and honest personal story that provides incredible insight into the many components that go into the making (and operation) of a successful upscale restaurant.

It is also an inspiration for anyone who is, or has, been stricken with cancer - just when life seemed so good.
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on March 23, 2011
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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on May 16, 2013
As someone who has worked in the industry since my teens, and aspired towards greatness as a server, sommelier, manager and all that comes with it, I was utterly enraptured by Grant and Nicks ( and their 'family's') story. I learned my way from Larry Stone, the Master Sommelier that opened Charlie Trotters and have been proud to know many who have been influenced by Chef Achatz. Coincidentally, I was listening to the story of El Bulli and Chef Adria in tandem to reading this book and was struck quite often by the similarities in drive, dedication, perseverance and insanity of the two chefs that helped bring this incredible and revelatory style of cuisine to the world. Thank you so much for sharing your story and not only inspiring those in the culinary world, but also those who struggle with fear and despair of cancer diagnoses as well. As the Wine Director at The Inn at Little Washington, I see the quest for perfection everyday in our kitchen and on the floor and last Christmas I gave this book to the kitchen in a 'library' of sorts for those that chose to expand their understanding of a chef and team who have set a new bar for excellence and passion. It was the most 'checked out' of the books I gave them and each chef, green or seasoned, thanked me for giving them the chance to find their own answers to the question of 'what is Alinea?!' Keep rockin on and making dreams seem possible.
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on August 5, 2012
Wow. This book totally blew me away.

Grant Achatz is one of the most acclaimed chefs in the US, if not the world. His Chicago restaurant, Alinea, has been ranked among the best in the world. He mastered his culinary artistry under the tutelage of Chef Thomas Keller, of Bouchon and The French Laundry, but has taken molecular gastronomy and culinary genius to a whole different level. And in 2007, at the height of his and the restaurant's success, Achatz was diagnosed with Stage 4-b squamous cell carcinoma--tongue cancer. (There is no Stage 5.) While most doctors advised Achatz to have a portion of his tongue surgically removed, thereby ending his career, he underwent an alternative treatment of chemotherapy and radiation first. But there were some sacrifices he would have to make.

Life, on the Line: A Chef's Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat is more than a book about Achatz's struggle with cancer and how it affected those around him, including Kokonas, his business partner at Alinea. (In fact, the cancer battle really doesn't come up until the last quarter of the book.) The book traces the genesis of his love of cooking, his struggles in the competitive and harrowing culinary world, and his desire to reinvent the way people approach and eat food. For a foodie like me, I couldn't read the book fast enough--it made me hungry and it made me long to be back in the culinary world myself. Having the opportunity to ride on Achatz's shoulder throughout his journey is an amazing one, and the book (especially when Kokonas begins co-narrating the story, as plans for Alinea start to take shape) doesn't make Achatz out to be a saint. It portrays him accurately, even while he undergoes painfully brutal treatment for cancer.

This is a tremendously well-written, captivating and uplifting book for so many reasons. It is a privilege to understand what shapes Achatz's culinary philosophy and what goes into his culinary creations. And to watch as he approaches cancer with the same strength he faced every other challenge, including not being taken seriously as a chef, is amazing. He may be an incredible chef, but it is clear from this book that Grant Achatz is a pretty incredible man as well.
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on December 27, 2012
A story of striving, succeeding, and facing death. Achatz does a remarkable job of sharing his remembrance and insight into his journey to the top and his near-death. The peek into kitchens of top restaurants, the amazing creativity and obvious exuberance for his art are well shared. The choice of certain death over disformity and lingering instead of living is catalogued for the reader.

Recognizing the book as a work befitting its title - a look at a professional life and his near-death, especially as it related to his passion - will prepare the reader best. Achatz brings the reader into the kitchen; he feeds the imagination allowing you to feel, taste, and smell his presentations. But that focus, like the schedule demanded of him, leaves little room for a personal life. While present in the story, his intimate relationships are at times presented more sparsely than his menu creations. This reader is left wondering whether this is the cost - paid by the rising star and those around him - that chasing such a dream has extracted or whether this is the man whose first love is a consuming mistress: the creation of new sensory eating experiences.
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on March 26, 2011
If you're a fan of books about chefs, this is a great one. Fascinating story of the author's journey from his parents' restaurant to the CIA to the French Laundry before creating what must be the most revolutionary dining experience in the world. Michael Ruhlman's books about his year at the CIA, Michael Symon, and Thomas Keller turned me into a chef book junkie, and the details in this book about what went into creating Alinea were fascinating. Achatz' journey through cancer just made it all the more interesting (and inspirational).

My favorite section of the whole book detailed a friend's visit to Alinea and his description of the diners' reactions to the food. Hilarious, and made me feel like I was sitting right there in the restaurant. Very well done.

This would probably be an interesting book for any reader, but it's a must-read for chef-junkies like myself.
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on May 15, 2011
Alinea is considered by many to be the best restaurant in America, started by the brilliant young chef Grant Achatz. "Life, on the Line" tells the story of his beginnings as a child cooking in his parents' diner, his rise through various restaurants including the famed French Laundry in Napa Valley, his revitalization of Trio in Evanstan, Illinois, and the opening of Alinea with his business partner Nick Kokonas (who writes part of the book from his own perspective).

As Achatz reaches the peak of the culinary world, he finds out that he has developed stage-4 tongue cancer. He elects to pursue a risky experimental therapy in the hopes of saving his tongue and ability to taste. This battle against cancer elevates the story beyond a typical culinary memoir.

The authors tell a very honest story, brutally so during the cancer portion. Achatz is clearly a control freak who sacrifices almost his entire personal life to pursue his dream of owning the best restaurant in the country. The exchange between perspectives gives a clearer picture of the personalities of each author as viewed by the other, which is a nice touch. Achatz also talks about how he gets inspiration for his innovative cuisine.

My main complaint with the book is that the writing is haphazard. Stories are brought up and left dangling. For instance, his father comes to eat at Alinea, which is portrayed as emotionally fraught. But what happens? He also brings up the Black Truffle Explosion that is sure to win over the staff at Trio. But people who haven't experienced this at Trio or Alinea, or who haven't read the Alinea cookbook, won't know the significance of this.

All in all, it's still a very good read.
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on January 2, 2014
Not only was this a gripping story, but so well-written (a requirement for me), so articulate. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in people who find their life passion early on and pursue it with everything in their power. This young chef is clearly a genius at molecular gastronomy, and the descriptions (and photos) of some of his creations are museum-quality masterpieces. I also found the oxymoronic combination of passionate career drive and personal life infinitely interesting; where the former is like a rocket launch, the latter far less. The intricacies of Grant's tragic medical issues were so gripping and engaging I could hardly put the book down. A fine, fine read...and perhaps a life lesson for anyone seeking balance between passionate work and personal life.
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