Chef Grant Achatz set to throw open doors to newest restaurant

After almost a year of hype, speculation, and months of delays, celebrity chef Grant Achatz's highly anticipated restaurant
Next opens Wednesday in Chicago.

Since first announcing plans to open a second restaurant on Twitter last May, Next restaurant has received pages of cyber press and print ink on what Achatz - who has already redrawn the culinary map with his interpretation of molecular gastronomy - would do, well, next.

The concept has been lauded for being heroically ambitious and ingeniously inventive: recreate the menu inspired by great moments in culinary history. Proposed themes alternate between nebulous, fuzzy eras like Hong Kong in the year 2036 or Kyoto in the springtime, to granular, time-stamped dates like October 28, 1996 - the day Achatz started working at The French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley. Achatz is never stingy with his praise, crediting much of his success to mentor Thomas Keller - the Michelin-starred chef of French Laundry - at every opportunity.

Though originally slated to open last fall, Achatz took to Twitter to announce that it would officially open Wednesday.

"We R excited & nervous about openings. Everything thus far points 2 4/6 opening 4 Next. Aviary will delay slightly. We want 2 make it great," he tweeted March 29.

Aviary is a cocktail bar set to open later this month.

For the restaurant's maiden gastronomical voyage, diners will time travel to Paris in the year 1906 - an homage to French chef Auguste Escoffier, the godfather of modern French cuisine widely credited for popularizing French cooking. The playbill for the menu is "Escoffier At the Ritz."

In a YouTube video posted in February, Next kitchen staff are filmed preparing a test run for their opening menu. Recipes for the multi-course meal are reinterpreted from Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire first published in 1903. Oeufs Bénédectine, soft-boiled eggs with a Brandade of salt cod and chopped truffle, are cradled in delicate silver egg trays; an army of spotlessly clean kitchen staff toil, heads bowed, over artful plates like Filets de Sole Daumont; and roast duck breast is pressed, bathed in sizzling fats and fanned out on gold-gilded plates.

Each menu will have a shelf life of three months, after which time it will be retired to make way for the next one. Depending on the cuisine, meals will be five to nine courses.

Instead of taking reservations, Achatz has also decided to employ an online ticketing system much like a theater show or rock concerts. Like ticket prices for different seating arrangements, dinner tickets depend on the time slot. Off-peak hours will be less expensive than Saturday nights, for example. Prices range between $45 to $75.

Achatz's first-born restaurant Alinea, has collected a slew of awards and nods including the title of Best Chicago Restaurant, Ever, by Chicago Magazine, and three Michelin stars.

The city has become a hub for molecular, inventive gastronomy. Homaro Cantu - who like Achatz underwent kitchen boot camp under celebrity chef Charlie Trotter - also opened his new restaurant Ing last month. One of the concepts of the restaurant is to use the miracle berry - a flavor-tripping food that turns sour foods sweet - on its menu.


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