On New Year's Eve in Wooster, Ohio, I sat around a table with some friends, discussing the Netflix series, Chef's Table. In particular, we shared our excitement for the episode that featured Grant Achatz, Chef and Owner of Alinea.
Last Saturday night in Chicago, I sat around The Kitchen Table at Alinea with some of those same friends, talking, laughing and sharing in the excitement of an experience of a lifetime.
That's what Alinea is. It's an experience, not just a restaurant. On Chef's Table, Grant goes one one step further with that thought when he says, "To me, the evolution of the experience is almost as important [as the meal]."
Boom. Just like that he links one of the major principles of yoga and mindfulness to dining in a restaurant: beauty lies within the process, not the end product. - Not exactly how you'd expect a chef to prioritize things. But, this ideology enhances dinner at Alinea in the same way it enriches a yoga class or encourages meditation: When we release the idea of what something "should" be, we make way for all that it "could" be. That's the moment. That's where all of the color, flavor and texture of life exist.
The moments we spent at Alinea asked that we be fully present; that everyone with a seat at the table play a role in the experience.
We weren't there merely to eat or enjoy the show. We were an integral part of what was being created in the kitchen that night. As the ones experiencing Alinea for the first time, our thoughts, expectations, attitudes, conversations, perceptions and reactions completed the creative cycle the restaurant started.
Boom. Just like that we were living yoga off the mat, at the dinner table: We connected more deeply to our own senses, to each other and to the experiences unfolding in each moment. We felt a sense of connection to the power of creativity that Alinea so generously brought forth and asked us to participate in. We took part in something bigger than dinner, bigger than any of us. I like to think that the connections and the feelings of unification that came out of that meal are the "evolution of the experience" Grant was referencing.
To Alinea, thank you for setting the table for this experience.
To my friends, thank you for co-creating this beautiful evening with me.