Chef Grant Achatz has been named one of Time magazine's 2011 most influential people in the world.
The annual Time 100 list, released Thursday, places Achatz in the same ranks as heads of states, artists and activists deemed the most influential of the year.
The Chicago chef is the lone ambassador for the culinary world. Other names include Michelle Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kim Jong Un - who Time calls "Tyrant in waiting" for North Korea - teen pop singer Justin Bieber, TV host and producer Oprah Winfrey, designer Tom Ford, and Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton.
In a glowing ode to his protégé, chef Thomas Keller wrote a short blurb for Time, praising Achatz's singular vision and for elevating modernist cuisine. Achatz considers Keller, of The French Laundry, his mentor after working for him in his early career.
"I have always believed that there are many cooks in the world but not many chefs in the true sense of the word," Keller wrote. "Grant exemplifies the modern chef - and nothing, not even tongue cancer, has impeded his vision and desire."
Achatz's induction into the pantheon of game-changing faces comes fresh off a number of career highs. On Monday night, his Chicago restaurant Alinea moved up a spot to be ranked sixth on the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list. It was also named the Best Restaurant in North America on the same night.
Earlier this month, Achatz opened his second restaurant Next to wild acclaim, with tickets going for up to $3,000 on Craigslist. Like a sporting event or theater show, diners must buy tickets for a dinner seating at the restaurant.
Meanwhile, an early online poll inviting readers to cast their vote for the most influential person of the year included a shortlist of foodies like British chef Jamie Oliver, food writer Mark Bittman of The New York Times, chef René Redzepi, whose Copenhagen restaurant Noma was named Best Restaurant in the World Monday, and Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine. Achatz was also included on that list.
South Korean pop star Rain, 28, took the top spot in the reader's poll for the third year in a row. As the magazine points out, "That's pretty impressive online power for a guy whose main claim to Western fame is a role in the 2009 film Ninja Assassin."
For the full list, visit http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2066367,00.html