The latest interest in Alinea’s celebrated chef revolves around talk of a documentary of his life, directed by R. J. Cutler. We probed Achatz for details.
D: How did this come about?
GA: After the New Yorker profile ran, we had a pretty strong interest from Hollywood. Everybody wanted to buy the life rights. Do a memoir. A feature film. Let’s face it; it’s a Hollywood story. Has all the elements of a great story: adversity, originality, drama, tragedy, and triumph. Your classic Hollywood arc.
D: So what happened?
GA: We got approached and sat down with a lot of different people. It depends where you want to go with the project. It can go from 100-percent true documentary to a watered-down, sterilized Hollywood-style movie that will appeal to the masses. We weren’t particularly interested in that. We wanted to treat it like we treat the restaurant. Like we treated the cookbook.
D: Which is?
GA: It had to have integrity. Had to unveil or explain our creative process. Couldn’t just be about a young chef, tongue cancer, throw a love story in there, and hurrah.
D: How did you choose?
GA: We needed to align ourselves or partner with somebody we trust that is going to control the message. How do we convey everything that is Alinea in a film fashion, and put forth something that we are proud of? That is hard to find.
D: What are Cutler’s other projects that made you trust him?
GA: Most recently, he did The September Issue, released at Sundance. He follows the editor of Vogue (Anna Wintour). He did The War Room. He’s done these documentaries with Bill Clinton, Oliver North.
D: Is he a foodie?
GA: He has eaten at the restaurant. He is a foodie. Everybody that we have worked with on all of these projects, it is imperative that they have a passion for food so we can at least speak the same language.
D: Will you be in the movie?
GA: Yes. We are going to try to weave a life story; the cancer has to be in there. But more importantly, unveiling the roots of cooking in America. We are talking about R. J. shooting at the restaurant, not a scripted film.
GA: Tentative timeline is to start to shoot mid to late this year. He is a very self-contained unit. Has his own production company. Talked about literally relocating to Chicago during the shooting. That makes it compelling for us.
D: Are you excited?
GA: I am, because I think we can really make something. There’s the Gordon Ramsays and Anthony Bourdains who show the underbelly of restaurants, but to have a film and sit down for an hour and a half and show you the triumphs and the failures, I think it can be really exciting. It’s something I would like to watch. But I’m a little biased.