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Best meal of my life: Alinea

Chuggy Bear returns to his college stomping grounds in Chicago to experience a three-Michelin star restaurant

Posted May 29, 2013 by Grant Shindo

I attended last year’s TEDxHonolulu in search of knowledge and inspiration. As part of the interactive conference, we had to fill in the blank to the following statement: “Before I die I want to…”

I picked an experience that had piqued my interest since living in Chicago — to dine at the city’s only three-Michelin star restaurant, Alinea.

I went to Chicago for college to experience life in a bustling and exciting metropolis. Although I graduated with a psychology degree, my love of cooking, catering and dining kept me obsessed with the city’s food scene. Yet, as a poor student, the prospect of eating at the great restaurants seemed like a distant dream. Just before leaving Chicago to return to Hawaii, I promised my good friend, Kyle Duke, that my next trip back would include a visit to the famed Alinea.

I kept my word, and last week, while visiting the Windy City, Kyle and I dined at the renowned restaurant, and I had not only the best meal of my life, but an experience that was fun, interactive, daring and mind blowing. The combined tab for the two of us with wine pairings was $1,000, and it was worth every penny.

Alinea in Chicago (1 of 33)

Alinea in Chicago

Chef Grant Achatz is the mad scientist behind Alinea. Known for his successful fight against cancer of the tongue, he's a graduate of Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and the former chef at Chicago's Trio, a restaurant owned by Hank's Haute Dogs owner Henry Adinaya.

His genius defies the boundaries of traditional cooking and he harnesses the science of molecular gastronomy to shock and awe guests. Known for his daring presentations, he engages many of the senses to stimulate the diner in ways never experienced at a dinner table. Throughout the meal, we were bestowed with the sweet smells of smoldering sugar cane, the taste of flavored air and the crackle of liquid nitrogen freezing our dessert.


Here’s the exciting end to our four-hour dinner:


  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 7:32 am

    CB:  Yikes!!! Thanks for sharing!  What an experience.  The next time I have a date with Catherine Deneuve this is the place we are going!! LOL Half the cost of the dinner must be for the presentation stuff, WoW.  I suppose the meal even without the presentation would have sufficed but the complementary visual put it over the top.  It is almost Zen like based on the pix…too bad that the other noises, like in the video, can take some of the ambiance away.  Can you imagine if you guys were the only ones in the room…it would be awesome.

  2. Grant Shindo
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 7:52 am

    @Annoddah_Dave Thanks! Much of the hidden value of the meal is behind the hours and hours of meticulous care of the ingredients and refining them into superstar components of each and every dish.
    The dining room is definitely lively compared to places like Vintage Cave and Mavro in Hawaii where it is much quieter. Each dish really starts a conversation, whether speculating the ingredients in the dish or the surprising tastes, textures or scents. The element of surprise is Chef Achatz greatest asset and it makes for a truly memorable dinner!

  3. nonstopmari
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:09 am

    so this is what $500 buys u in chicago … ahhhmazing. loved the narrative quality of ur captions. def something i want to experience

  4. DianeSeo
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Wow Grant, that definitely was a meal that most never get to experience in their lifetime. I love the fact that you targeted this place for years, researched it, then went in for the killer meal. Well done.

  5. Grant Shindo
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    @nonstopmari I really wanted to experience Chef Grant’s cooking and style while his restaurant remains on the top 100 list. The next visit I will have to try Next, he other restaurant with an ever changing menu that is influenced by a specific date in time in a country. I’ve had friends go and rave about the mastery of all types of cuisines from around the world.

  6. Grant Shindo
    Posted May 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    @DianeSeo Thank you! Alinea and el Bulli were the two places that really fascinated me. It’s too bad Ferran has moved on to other ventures. Chicago is really building their food scene and a lot of top talent is coming out of the woodwork. I am glad I was able to make the most of this trip.

About Grant Shindo

Who is that you spot at your local restaurant, bar, food truck or pop-up? Grant "Chuggy Bear" Shindo is always on the hunt for the tastiest grub this island has to offer. Chuggy Bear not only has a passion for food, but also a desire to share his experiences through colorful and honest storytelling. Next time you're at a farmer’s market, say “hi” to Grant and find out what the next plate has to offer. You can find his favorite spots at

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