Pepperoni Pizza On The Head Of A Pin

Whether reading a book or watching a movie, we all come to the “story” from our own paradigms. A friend once suggested that a paradigm is like being in a room without any ceiling or windows. What we see when we look outside depends on where we place the ladder.

Just last weekend I read Life, on the line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefing the Way We Eat, by Grant Achatz (pronounced Ackets, like packets) and Nick Kokonas (New York: Gotham Books, 2011). These days, my schedule is more “audio book” friendly; however, I took the hardcover edition of this book on a roadtrip and absorbed it over three nights.

Honestly, I had no expectations. I was drawn to the book on Amazon simply by the cover and the editor’s blurb. Here’s the backcopy: “One of America’s greatest chefs” shares how his drive to cook immaculate food won him international renown—and fueled his miraculous triumph over tongue cancer.

The formatting of the text was awkward but necessary. The font changes to represent each author. I just didn’t like the two fonts they used. Hey…I work in publishing and fonts are friends…not food.

The book is divided into three parts: Part 1: Standing on the Milk Crate; Part 2: A New Train of Thought; Part 3: Life, on the line. I’m not going to tell you what’s in the book or what appears in each part. That’s a journey you’ll want to enjoy on your own. However, strangely enough, the bit about Grant’s tongue cancer seemed unnecessary to me. It was almost as if that part was intentionally downplayed. There’s no doubt in my mind that facing death is a sobering experience and not easily communicated to others.

For me, this book was about relationships. The good, the bad, and the oh-so, ugly. From a people-management perspective, it was a brilliant example of how fathers/authority figures/managers effect the people who follow them. Needless to say, I have a whole new level of respect for Thomas Keller. Not only is he an amazing Chef…he’s also impacted many lives for the good – including Grant’s. Keller works hard and expects no less of the people around him. He leads by example. He inspires. He listens. He cares. *sigh* I want to work for Thomas Keller.

This book had a very strange effect on me. I cried, I laughed, I read several parts over and over again. It moved me in a way I didn’t expect. Grant’s story is filled with victories – big and small. Though I’m not a big fan of molecular gastronomy, Grant’s creativity is worthy of praise. And…while I much prefer a real pizza, I’d love to taste all the flavor of pepperoni pizza formed in to a little square and balanced on the head of a pin. Simply brilliant!



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