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Grant Achatz on Next and Their Modern Chinese Menu

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Grant Achatz on Next and Their Modern Chinese Menu
Photo Christian Seel

The latest trailer from Grant Achatz and Dave Beren at Next has been released promoting the restaurant's newest theme - Modern Chinese.

The video is compiled from a series of pictures by Christian Seel, a mix between hi-tech shots of a very modern looking China interspersed with snaps of the Next team working on new dishes and colourful pics of Chinese street food.

After wowing guests with a Vegan Feast, a Chicago Style Steakhouse and entire restaurant themes dedicated to Kyoto, elBulli and Paris 1906 - a menu Achatz described as “drippy over the top indulgence” - Modern Chinese looks set to be yet another epic offering.

We caught up with Achatz in a recent interview to ask him about The Modern Chinese menu, finding out just how beneficial Next has been for Alinea and why he thinks his latest menu is something that needed to be done. “I don’t think that people really understand Chinese food, I didn’t until I started really digging into it,” explains Achatz, “The variants between different regions of China, especially in America, people have one idea of Chinese food but regionality creates these amazing differences in cuisine. It’s almost like going to a different country, you might have subtle and delicate flavours in one region, then ripping hot spicy, seafood driven in another region.”

The Modern Chinese menu will launch at Next, May 8th, something Achatz seems visibly excited about: “It’s Chinese focused, pretty much every region is covered with a modern gastronomy twist. For instance, if you’re accustomed to a steamed bun for Dim Sum, maybe we make it larger than you’d expect, maybe we make it smaller. Maybe it’s filled with things you’re not accustomed to but are still in the Chinese ingredient profile.”

From behind his trademark cheeky grin, he coughs, “We’re going to use all the bells and whistles…all the current modern techniques. Rotary distillers, vacuum compressing - all the stuff that everyone’s doing right now. Lots of technique but the back bone is going to be genuinely Chinese. We’re incorporating all of this to really try to make an experience that speaks to Chinese cookery both in China and the way we experience it in other countries, trying to melt all this together.”

Although the menu is rooted in Chinese cuisine and tradition, Achatz says there will be some fun nods to the American-Chinese culture his has grown up with, “We also laugh at each other, make fun of ourselves, make fun of America to a certain degree. Your final course might be a fortune cookie that’s this big (holds hands out as if cradling a baby sized fortune cookie) where you take your menu out of it - not everybody knows but fortune cookies are not Chinese, they’re American but most people that go to a Chinese restaurant in America think fortune cookies.

On top of the fun Achatz and his crew are having researching new themes, he says Next is having a strong influence across his business. “Next is helping us develop Alinea - we have the responsibly and requirement at Next to do a lot of culinary research and, when you come to think about it, that should be default for every chef. It forces me to look at Chinese cooking. How many chefs know an intimate amount of Chinese ingredients and techniques? Currently on the Alinea menu there’s a lot of influence from China because of the work we’ve been doing on this menu.”

After Modern Chinese, closing the 2014 calendar will be Trio - a nod to an important part of Achatz’s career - “Trio was the first restaurant I ever ran myself but we’re really going to hone in, not only Trio, but on what was also happening at that time. For me it’s a snapshot of gastronomy, what was happening in 2001? When I think about that, the historical aspect of gastronomy - who were the major practitioners? In 2001 Ferran was on top of the world, Rene and I had just been to elBulli in 2000, we were still very new, no one knew who we were. So where we’ve come, when you can put a period on it, point to a date and say ‘wow - thirteen years later - look what’s happened’, it’s amazing, it’s bananas. I’m trying to capture that, it will be Trio but I want to give the diners a feel of what it was like eat in 2001.”

“In the years coming - what do we do next year? Do we go to South America and do South American cuisine, because I tell you right now no one is really emphasising that. Do we do Mexico? We talked about India, the thing is, we can do whatever we want - which is amazing when you think about it.”


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