Monday, May 5, 2008

Man of Taste

Grant Achatz, a young Chicago chef whose restaurant Alinea is considered by some to be the best in the U.S., has beaten a virulent stage IV tongue cancer and is now back working in the kitchen. 

Problem is, he still can't really taste.

From an excellent New Yorker profile:

Ten months ago, Achatz was given a diagnosis of tongue cancer. He was informed that if he did not start treatment immediately he would die. “You have Stage IV cancer,” he remembers being told by a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “There is no Stage V.” Doctors removed lymph nodes from his neck; a pink scar now extends from an inch below Achatz’s left earlobe to an inch above the collarbone. He was also given twelve weeks of chemotherapy treatment, which made his hair fall out, and six weeks of radiation, which nearly swelled his throat shut, and caused the skin inside his mouth and on his face to peel. “They burned me so bad I had to wear a burn mask,” he recalls. The therapy also destroyed his sense of taste. Although it is slowly returning—the process can take a year or more—he is in the precarious position of having to create and serve food that he cannot really taste.

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