How Grant Achatz Designs New Dishes

According to Eater, chef Grant Achatz, named the 2008 Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, is behind some of Chicago's top dining destinations like Alinea, Next, The Aviary, the Office, and Roister. The Aviary and the Office also have outposts in New York City.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the Michigan-born Achatz spent four years under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in California. However, as influential as Keller was on Achatz's career, the time spent under gastronomic adventurer Ferran Adrià at El Bulli in Spain solidified Achatz's culinary direction (via StarChefs).

Invigorated by Adrià's avant-garde approach, Achatz returned to the Midwest and to lead the restaurant Trio after his test dish of truffle exploding ravioli delighted owner Henry Adaniya. There, he experimented with taste and texture, impressing Pete Wells, a New York Times restaurant critic, by turning an heirloom tomato salad into a sorbet, per Food & Wine. According to Chicago Humanities, opening Alinea in 2005, per NPR, put him on the leading edge of molecular gastronomy.

The technique Grant Achatz uses to design new dishes

While Achatz's culinary creations are as much feats of physics as cooking, he never forgets that the root of all good food is flavor. When coming up with his gastronomic delights, he uses a technique called flavor bouncing to match flavor profiles and concoct new gastronomic delights.

In a YouTube video shared by the Harvard School of Business, Achatz mind-maps the process. He begins with the centerpiece ingredient. In the video, he uses white beans. From there, he establishes a second ingredient that goes with the centerpiece. For the white beans, it's bacon and ham. The third flavor must match the white beans and the pork product. He chooses apples and pears. The process continues to build. If he arrives at a flavor that does not go with all the complementary ingredients and the centerpiece ingredient, it's removed from the equation.

Achatz's flavor bouncing is similar to flavor pairing. Chef James Briscione, author of "The Flavor Matrix," explains that flavor is identified by the nose, not the tongue. As long as the aromatic compounds harmonize, the ingredients make a culinary love match.