Tray Sheikh: Grant Achatz at Next

I spent a day at the restaurant Next photographing food, Michelin three-star chef Grant Achatz (pronounced ACKets) and the general kitchen commotion for Cooking Light’s 2011 Chef Awards issue.  Above is a placeholder, my loupe standing in for a truffled egg custard with salted cod roe.  We swapped plates to present a serving for one:

The menu that opened the restaurant was titled Paris, 1906 – Escoffier at the Ritz, and drew from Auguste Escoffier’s recipes.

Supremes de Poussin and poached cucumbers, filled with chicken mousse, wrapped in salt pork.  Beautiful, delicate.  Love the plates.  Yum, probably.   I regret the food wasn’t cooked to eat, but rather to be seen, so not entirely edible. Rotated 90 degrees clockwise they’d resemble a famous Japanese cartoon character, I think.

Chef Achatz in the kitchen and front-of-house –

I’d watched him eviscerate sea urchins in the kitchen at Trio in Evanston, Illinois some nine years earlier – taking a portrait then for Elle magazine.  One dish I’d shot then included a heated rock, topped by a dry oak leaf, then covered by a glass.  Accompanying a perfectly prepared red meat – I can’t remember which – to the table,  the glass was lifted and the smoke from the oak leaf wafted.  Cool.  Scans from film:

Work in Next the kitchen was performed with relaxed precision and extraordinary focus.  It was a real treat to watch.

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