By Zahra Al-Kateb
Alinea is a restaurant that continues to break culinary stereotypes by shunning the stuffy hallmarks often associated with fine dining. The restaurant has defied expectations from the start, from becoming one of the first in the country to use science to manipulate the taste and texture of food, to introducing Tock, a ticketing system where diners pay in advance before entering the restaurant.
With over ten years since Alinea’s inception, it is Grant Achatz’s modern take on fine dining that has seen him become our highest entry for the fifth year running.
“It is an amazing honor to be selected as the best restaurant in the world five years running by Elite Traveler,” Achatz told Elite Traveler. “Alinea strives every day to produce the best possible experience and it is incredibly rewarding to be recognized by the dining public as doing so.”
While it has always been well known that Achatz’s short stage at elBulli in Roses, Spain was hugely influential, it has never been more evident than in 2016, when Achatz and his entire team relocated to Madrid to the NH Hotel Eurobuilding. The temporary move saw the Alinea: Madrid pop-up open from January 12- February 6. Working alongside DiverXO, diners were transported from one restaurant to another half-way through their meal. The dishes represented the three-star Michelin cuisine of Alinea while also paying homage to Spanish culinary heritage. In true Alinea fashion, this once in a lifetime culinary experience was a ticketed event.
The brief stint in Madrid inevitably meant the closure of their usual Chicago base, providing an opportunity for renovations throughout the ten-year-old restaurant, a project referred to as Alinea 2.0. The 70-day reconstruction was far more than a paint job – the entire restaurant had been gutted to make way for an entirely new redesign, with Achatz’s business partner Nick Kokonas even tweeting a picture of the Alinea team signing their names on the walls during the renovation process.
This year also marks Achatz and his team’s first foray into a la carte, with their fourth venue, Roister, opening earlier this year. Roister – a French verb that literally translates to “revel noisily” – presents a totally different vibe to Achatz’s previous ventures, and sees the kitchen and the dining room united. The food is rustic, there is no dress code, and with no distinction between the kitchen and dining room, even the chefs can be the servers.
Between the Alinea: Madrid pop-up, the re-launch of Alinea, the opening of Roister and the development of Tock, Achatz is busier than ever before. With part of Alinea’s enduring success being Achatz’s philosophy of continuous evolution, Chicago – and the rest of the culinary world – are undoubtedly on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what they’ll do next.