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I had this idea in my head. Maybe put three pictures up in my office, each representing something important about what I do. Counseling reminder. A touchstone for the eye of sorts. Well, like I said, it was in my head and as I realized one of the three pictures I wasn’t going to be able to get, and the others were certainly copyrighted, the three sort of evolved as I looked for alternatives. So in looking for a different way to go, in my head, we went from three reminders to 96 reminders. It’s why my wife refers to what comes out of my noggin as ‘cumbersome’ on occasion.

So. I am mostly a counselor, but I have also studied and practiced a bunch of other things including cuisine and photography. I always wanted to have an idea why some folks in every field are wildly successful compared to many of their contemporaries, so I always checked a bunch of them out. So, here come 96 people and quotes attributed to them, if there are any – 24 chefs, 24 photographers, 20 people associated with psychology directly, and then 28 none of the above people whose lives or words remind me what to strive towards as a counselor, a counseling business owner, and a general human being. The only problem was stopping. There have been a lot of people who for one reason or another inspire me, lots more names on the potential list but it had to at least pause somewhere, so here we are.

I don’t rightly know if writing these out and posting them will be of any use to anyone else but I’m reasonably sure codifying the whole thing will drive it home for me and hopefully offer some encouragement and centering for our folks. Hope you get something out of one or two of them too.

Chef Grant Achatz

It’s true that my night at Alinea was as mind-blowing as one would hope. How rare something lives up to expectations in this life. That is probably what has always made Chef Achatz intriguing to me. Again, don’t know the dude, just know the public narrative but the narrative that has endured is more than enough. A driven guy, striving for a view from the top. Enduring God knows how many hours of Lord knows what at the hands of the most demanding chefs to build a pedigree. That includs Charlie Trotter from this list, for whom, he did not have a great deal of praise afterwards. Cuts, burns, bruises, stress. He’s stepped into the spotlight, he’s blowing people away applying all he has learned through his travails. It’s all worth it!!!

Expectations. I know sometimes optimistic people are annoyed by my more realistic take on the world, but that’s what balance is. I don’t know if Chef Achatz is an optimist or pessimist or realist, but I do know that life doesn’t much care. Cancer. Mouth Cancer. Surgery is going to remove his ability to taste. The University of Chicago offers a less surgical approach which will leave him with much more of his physical body but will still obliterate his ability to taste. He trains his staff, has the procedure, saves his life. If you know the story, three years later a cup of coffee with three spoons of sugar (habit even though he couldn’t taste it) suddenly stunned him with sweetness. His buds returned. What was most amazing to me however was what happened in the meantime.

Chef was not to be dissuaded from the mountaintop view. He changed the ways people eat, think, experience something as common and as universal as food. He turned painting to plates, Michelin starred service to comfortable fun, created a staff who not only held up his standards but grafted into his creativity. I don’t know if those years were his best as a chef, but I am pretty certain they weren’t his worst. Here are some quotes to get a sense of the chef.

“It’s not really the life of cooking that’s hard – it’s what you make of it and what level you push yourself to.”
Grant Achatz

“I don’t care if you’re doing haute cuisine or burgers and pizza, just do it right.”
Grant Achatz

“Alinea is not the type of restaurant where you go if you’re in a hurry. Really, it’s about enjoying that three-hour block of time and reflecting on the food, having great conversation with your dining companion.”
Grant Achatz

“To me, every kitchen appliance is useful and nothing’s overrated. When I look at my little espresso machine, I don’t see coffee. I see a steaming valve as an opportunity to make amazing creme brulee.”
Grant Achatz

Growing up as a young kid, I was in a restaurant. So, you know, I always had a very good understanding of the nuances. And in a way, that was a bad thing. Because it kind of programmed me to believe that if you’re going have a restaurant, this is what you need to do, and this is the way it’s going to be run.
Grant Achatz

Whatever it is you’re doing, whether it’s your career or a particular focus, if you’re trying to be the best you can possibly be, then you’ll be putting that pressure on yourself.
Grant Achatz

I had D minuses in chemistry and all of the sciences, and now I’m known as a molecular gastronomist.
Grant Achatz

Anything that could ever prevent me from achieving a goal, I put in a box, tape it up, throw it over my shoulder. You aim for a goal and attain it. Then you look to the next one.
Grant Achatz

Chef’s story always reminds me that no matter how significant your loss(es) might be in life, with balanced understanding and an unwillingness to give in, they may prove instrumental to your growth as a person and everything you do. Chef provides a tangible example of just that. It also helps me view creativity as a gift to be applied everywhere, especially when you’re up against it. I’m sort of fond of his displeasure with Chef Trotters way of doing things. It doesn’t give me any sense of conflict to appreciate certain things about both and that also happens in life and should. Lastly, I’ve had my own life disappointments and practicing what you preach actually makes things better. Will I let a loss deter me from becoming as much of a person as I am possible, or will it drive me to better hone myself to realize that very thing.

Learn more about Chef Achatz here:

Netflix Special

Restaurant Website

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