- Author: Grant Achatz
Book online «Life, on the Line Grant Achatz (books to read to increase intelligence .TXT) 📖». Author Grant Achatz
Table of Contents
PART 1 - STANDING ON THE MILK CRATE
PART 2 - A NEW TRAIN OF THOUGHT
PART 3 - LIFE, ON THE LINE
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Published by Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, March 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Achatz, LLC
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Chicago Tribune article on pages 376-378 reprinted with special permission of the Chicago Tribune; copyright
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The images on pages 234, 235, 237, and 238 are courtesy of Grant Kessler. All other images within the text are courtesy of the author.
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On June 8, 2008, I flew to New York to attend the James Beard Foundation Awards. I was nominated for the Outstanding Chef Award. It is the ultimate recognition a chef can get at the Beard Foundation, and arguably the ultimate recognition for an American chef, period. I wanted to win.
I just didn’t want to be there when I won.
Five months earlier I had finished a brutal course of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for stage IVb squamous cell carcinoma. There is no stage V or even a IVc. The cancer was located primarily in my tongue and was a tumor that took up more than 50 percent of the visible part. According to the scans, it had also metastasized to my lymph system, located primarily on the left side of my neck. Everyone certainly hoped it had not spread below my collarbones. If it had, well—time to “get your affairs in order.”
The chemotherapy had left me bald, pimpled, scaled, and sore. The radiation had burned my tongue and face from the inside out. The lining of my esophagus would shed like a snakeskin and I was forced to peel it out of my throat while choking and vomiting. I started the treatment at 172 pounds. By the end I weighed 127.
I couldn’t taste a thing. Nothing. Food was cardboard and salt was just sand in my mouth, dissolving oddly and slowly with no purpose. Eating was a horrific and painful ordeal to be tolerated three or four times a day. Cooking at Alinea became a gauntlet to run every night: wonderful smells that you can’t taste, food you used to love that you can’t eat.
By the time the Beard Awards arrived, I had begun to recover from the treatment. I was in remission and apparently cancer-free. But the healing process would take time, and now I had to show up at Lincoln Center in New York, greet the other chefs, the restaurateurs, and the press.
I wanted to run away. I looked terrible. I had a scraggly goatee because I was unable to shave without peeling away my skin. My hair had started to grow back, but the back of my head was still bald—I looked like a sixteenth-century monk. My legs were sticks and the skin over my rib cage was sunken in. The tuxedo draped over my shoulders like it would on a hanger.
But what really concerned me was that I could barely talk. My tongue was half the size it used to be—it was nearly all tumors, and now those tumors had been vaporized by radiation. It was peeled, red, white, and sore, and the muscles that control it had been atrophied by the radiation. Part of my neck and most of my lymph