Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio was pleased with last week's performances. He wishes he could say the same about this week's.

on Nov 19, 2008

I  understand that the term "New American cuisine" is a bit esoteric. Take Grant Achatz's work at his restaurant Alinea, in Chicago. The food is so contemporary as to even be considered bizarre by some. I was at a demo he gave a few weeks ago. He's really into playing with aromas and their effects upon taste. Let's say he's doing an autumn dish: He will burn apples and cinnamon, trap the vapors in a sealed plastic "pillow," and then cut the pillow and place it on the table beneath the food, so that the aromas escape and enhance the dining experience. The food certainly isn't French, though he employs plenty of French techniques. It isn't Italian, despite his using many Italian ingredients. It is not homespun, even though he his musings about fall lead to thoughts of burning leaves, and so a burning leaf garnishes an autumnal dish. Do I consider what he's doing "New American cuisine"? You bet. Do I think our chefs should be emulating Grant Achatz? No, that's not the point. I mention him because he is progressive and is ever challenging himself. It irked me that the chefs in this Elimination Challenge were turning out the American food of twenty-thirty years ago, not the American food of now ... or tomorrow. As a whole the food showed a lack of the American spirit, that ingenuity and forward thinking. Sometimes people cling too much to tradition. Our chefs weren't going "New American", just "American." Which is fine at Thanksgiving at Grandma's, but won't cut it at a top restaurant the rest of the year.