Grant Achatz knows what it's like to miss out on the celebrations that anchor family life. When he was slogging his way through the ranks in élite kitchens (Charlie Trotter's and The French Laundry among them), Easter was a holiday in which he participated by proxy. These days, with his flagship Chicago restaurant, Alinea, ranked among the world's best and other venues, Aviary, Next and Roister, shoring up a mini-empire, it's a different story - just don't expect this Michigan-bred boy to prepare a traditional Easter feast.
"The Midwest has a specific food tradition," he says. "Growing up here I'd see people eat the same things each Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I'd think, gosh, the same thing, year after year."
Braised lamb shoulder with cocoa and cardamom.
Achatz has forged a global reputation based on wildness and whimsy in equal measure; he is, famously, the inventor of the edible helium balloon. So it comes as no surprise that an Achatz family Easter is a grab bag of global influences, including an Alinea-esque creation of grilled prawns and beetroot with smouldering cinnamon. We're a long way from the Rust Belt, Toto.
"A lot of these recipes are in the repertoire of stuff we like to cook at home," says Achatz. "We draw from a mish-mash of inspirations, so it's a globally influenced meal of things we simply love to eat - plus, there's the influence of my cooking. The shrimp and beets - it's trying to utilise certain techniques. And the kids love anything that's on fire."
Savoury doughnuts with pine nut butter.
After missing out on so many Easters working, the holiday is definitely a thing for Achatz, his partner, both their mothers, and his two sons. While the calibre of the chef in the kitchen might be higher than normal, the Achatz Easter proceeds like many others. "You plan to get food on the table at three, but it's never ready on time," he says. "As you're preparing, you're constantly snacking. We just graze all day."
April 2017 also saw Achatz in Australia for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, where he set himself the task of presenting a masterclass with 140 edible balloons. Australia's dining scene has caught his attention, and, ahead of his trip, he was looking forward to getting stuck into the local terroir. "It's a real youthful restaurant explosion - so I've kept the last four days free. We're going to churn the culinary side pretty well."
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival happened 31 March to 9
April 2017, melbournefoodandwine.com.au
Recipes by Grant Achatz
Grilled prawns and beetroot with chilli and smouldering cinnamon
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