It's a story so inspiring one would think it was culled from a script. But, Grant Achatz's
rise to success and triumphant battle with cancer is a true one...and now it has a fitting ending. The Alinea
chef was awarded the prestigious top honor at Sunday's James Beard Awards
. The Outstanding Chef Award is given to "a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals." Anyone who has been lucky enough to sample his spectacular avant-garde creations
would agree with this statement. But for me, ultimately, this award can be seen as a salute to Achatz's senses -- one of which, taste, was really put to the test this year. Only 6 months ago the chef was diagnosed with oral cancer
. Again, it seemed like it could only exist in fiction -- a top chef with tongue cancer. But his fight with the disease was very real and is chronicled in D.T. Max's New Yorker article
, which my colleague Andrew Gill blogged
about last month.
Congratulations are also due to Chicago chef Carrie Nahabedian
of Naha. She took home the award for Best Chef for the Great Lakes region, beating out fellow hometown chefs Bruce Sherman
of North Pond and Graham Eliot Bowles
, formerly of Avenues. Tufano's Vernon Park Tap
was also honored with an America's Classics Award.