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How can you cook without a sense of taste?

October 14, 2009

Grant Achatz might be the best chef in the country. He’s worked under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, and he currently runs Alinea, where he creates some of the most innovative and interesting food in the world.

In 2007, he was forced to undergo radiation therapy for tongue cancer. Three weeks after the treatment, back at work, he realized that he’d lost his sense of taste:

My mind raced at a million miles per hour. I grabbed 5 tasting spoons, walked over as casually as possible to the stove and randomly tasted a few of the pots simmering away. Nothing. I grabbed a pinch of salt, put it directly on my tongue, and it tasted–no, felt–like slowly dissolving sand. And just like that my sense of taste was gone. It felt like one day it was there, the next it had vanished completely.

At the Atlantic Food Channel, Achatz explains how he was able to compensate by leaning on his sense of smell and trusting the word of his fellow chefs. In fact, the experience led him to create dishes he might not otherwise have considered.

When a Chef Can’t Taste His Food [The Atlantic]

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