Grant Achatz’s ‘pop-up’ in Madrid: a guide in 10 points

Alinea in Residence arrives, which involves a move to Madrid (and, in fact, to Europe), for four weeks (from January 12 to February 6, 2016) from the chef’s headquarters in Chicago (3 Michelin stars and number 26 in the World). Located at the Hotel NH Collection Eurobuilding, this temporary concept will start with five nights centered on a collaboration between Achatz and David Muñoz (DiverXO), to then dedicate the remaining three weeks to a unique menu that the owner of Alinea will create exclusively for this stay in the capital, as an homage to Spain. This is the guide in ten points about the great sensation of the gastronomic season in Madrid.

Aquí puedes leer la versión en español de este reportaje / Here you can read the Spanish version of this article.

Gastroeconomy_AlineaMadridWho is Grant Achatz. He is considered one of the most influential chefs of contemporary cuisine in recent years. Associated with the businessman Nick Kokonas, Grant Achatz (St. Clair, Michigan, United States, 1974), opened ten years ago, Alinea in Chicago. Today, it is a restaurant with three Michelin stars positioned as number 26 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants (it was ninth in 2014). Additionally, it is the headquarters of his corporate group which includes another two businesses: Next and The Aviary. Last March, the chef participated in the dinners a 4 manos (to 4 hands) organized by Dani Garcia at his restaurant of the Hotel Puente Romano (Marbella), which included the tribute from a dozen cooks to Ferran Adria and elBulli, where Achatz fulfilled a ‘stage’, which according to him, was a determining factor in his professional career (in fact, the American was present at elBulli’s last day as a restaurant on July 30, 2011). “Grant Achatz is one of the most ingenious cooks that exists today. He is an incredible character. And I say this when, I usually try not to go out on a limb”, said Ferran Adrià, upon the end of that dinner. You can read a Gastroeconomy interview with Grant Achatz conducted a few months ago, here.

Gastroeconomy_GrantAchatz_DaniGarcia-1Why he decides to start a ‘pop-up’ in Madrid. At the end of last May, the cook announced his intention to open a temporary format of Alinea in Madrid and Miami in 2016, through an interview with the website, Fine Dining Lovers. Alinea’s journey outside of Chicago coincides with the “Reconceptualization” of its headquarters next year, which means its closure for some time, which he will take advantage of to embark on a tour with Alinea. It seems that this temporary space project in Madrid began to take shape at the dinner organized with Dani García. “We traveled to Chicago and it was one of the best meals in my life. They are quite friendly, amazing, sociable, humble people,” said Dani García in the presentation this morning. “This idea arose at the ‘A 4 manos (‘to 4 hands’) of Marbella. Grant wanted to go about creating pop-ups throughout the world while Alinea remained closed for two months of renovation. Javier Gutierrez, my partner, and Patricia Mateo have been the real architects of all this”. “Dani proposed he come to Marbella, and finally he has come to Madrid with Dani’s support”, says Patricia Mateo. How does Achatz rationalize it? “To move a whole restaurant around the world is is very complicated.” We trust our team and our partners in Spain. It means that you have to work with people that you trust to maintain your level of demand”, argues Grant Achatz. Reasons to choose Madrid? “The answer is because it is the opportunity to work with Dani, NH and Mateo. Madrid is a special place in my heart. We started to discuss it with Dani around one or more glasses of wine, in Marbella, with the ‘A 4 manos’; later, we had the conversation with Javier, his partner. And the idea to bring Alinea to Madrid emerged. It is an idea that I’ve always had. Javier said: we can make it possible. In my experience, many people say many things, but then they are not true. This time, it was and, seven months later, we are here”.

Gastroeconomy_AlineaMadrid3Where the ‘pop-up’ will be installed. Alinea in Residence, as this project has been baptized, will be installed at the Hotel NH Collection Eurobuilding (Padre Damián, 23. Madrid), revived one year ago, as a great space for the NH Hotel Group’s gastronomic wager. Specifically, the “pop-up’ space will occupy the hotel’s VIP Breakfast Room, which will be conditioned to convert it into Alinea Madrid. “Grant has chosen Spain and, in particular, Madrid, which distinguishes itself at a gastronomic level as a mixture of history and tradition, and also of avant-garde and modernism.”, said Hugo Rovira, managing director of NH Hotel Group for Spain and Portugal this morning. NH will block off one of its hotel kitchens for Alinea’s exclusive use, while the VIP Breakfast Room’s area will be reformed and in it will be installed a kitchen with a pass.

Gastroeconomy_AlineaMadrid2When and on what schedule. For four weeks, from January 12 to February 6, 2016, open only for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. In other words, it is a total of 20 days.

In two phases. Alinea in Residence is structured in two phases based on two different gastronomic experiences:

* In the first week, from the 12 to the 16 of January, the ‘pop up’ will be, in fact, the alliance between Alinea and DiverXO, for five nights, in which Grant Achatz and David Muñoz (chef and owner of DiverXO, three Michelin stars, located as a tenant under a cobranding agreement in one of the lower levels/basement of the Hotel NH Eurobuilding Collection) unite for a few days. Under a dinner-collaboration Up/Down, “beginning as much in DiverXO as in Alinea”. That is to say, below and above, since half of the menu will be served in one space and the other half in another, in a context in which many suprises are anticipated. For these five nights, two dinner shifts will be offered: at 18.30 hours and at 22.30 hours. “It will be an extraordinary collaboration with David Muñoz, something without precedents. There are many ‘pop-ups’ and the moves are very popular, but there hasn’t been anything similar to what David and I will do here in the first week.” Precisely, with Muñoz, Achatz had a confrontation/conflict/clash about a year ago, in which he criticized the possible copying of ideas and dishes from Alinea at Diverxo. “The chefs work hard and, at times, misunderstandings occur. But it is fixed. That is the problem of social networks. It will be a unique collaboration,” he affirms.

*From the second to the fourth week, that is, from the 19 of January to the 6 of February, the menu will operate 100 percent under Grant Achatz, his hand, right, Mike Bagale (head chef of Alinea) and the team from his headquarters in Chicago. Prepared exclusively for its stay in Madrid, the menu aspires to “to represent the Alinea kitchen, while paying homage to and honoring the Spanish culinary heritage. The menu will consist of between 17 and 20 dishes. 85% of the dishes will be new and 15% will be historical of Alinea Chicago, in a space that, in any case, “will absolutely recreate the experience that the diner has in Alinea Chicago”. Reservations will begin at 18.30 and will be organized step by step up to 22.30 hours.

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The prices. There are two different prices, one for each format:

* From the 12 to the 16 of January, for the dinner Alinea-DiverXO:

Tasting Menu: 500 euros + 10% VAT

’Reserve’ Pairing: 250 euros + 10% VAT

‘Standard’ Pairing: 125 euros + 10% IVA

If not, DiverXo’s wine list will work in both spaces.

* From the 19 of January to the 6 of February: In this case, it is the existent price (to the exchange rate) at Alinea Chicago

Tasting Menu: 275 euros + 10% VAT

‘Reserva’/’Reserve’ Pairing: 250 euros + 10% VAT

‘Standard’ Pairing: 125 euros + 10% VAT

In this case, upon making a reservation, one is obligated to assume one of the wine pairings.

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The reservation system and the number of seats. It is exclusively online and assumes the same scheme applied by Grant Achatz in all of his businesses in Chicago and which he debuted in Alinea in 2011: the reservation via web with the payment made by the client for a ticket, equivalent to the price of the dinner. It is a pre-pay system, in whose use the chef was a pioneer, and whose objective is to commit the diner and avoid ‘no shows’. This is the web enabled for reservations at the ‘pop-up’ of Madrid. It is somewhat similar to buying a ticket for a show. The tickets will be going on sale, in three blocks: 40 % is available from today; another 40% will be released in December and the remaining 20% will be sold in January. How many seats are going to be sold? By night, about 80 guests will be served (in double-shift), which, in 20 days, totals 1,600 tickets for sale (hence, that will be the number of clients served during the four weeks of Alinea in Residence).

On the other hand, guests staying in the presidential suite of NH Eurobuilding (with a price of 1,500 to 3,000 euros) “always have a guaranteed reservation in DiverXO without having to wait six months and in Alinea during the month that it is here,” said Hugo Rovira. Together with the Spanish clientele, “I imagine too that many people will come from outside of Spain, clients arrived from Europe, perhaps a half Spanish and the other half European. In the United States, the public moves within the country to go to Chicago for dinner. In Europe, I imagine that the same will happen, since the distances between Madrid, London, Copenhagen and Berlin are not more than four hours,” contends Achatz.

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What does the ‘pop-up’consist of. Alinea in Residence implies a real move of Alinea to Madrid, where Achatz will move to for four weeks with his team, all of his Alinea kitchen and dining room staff (between 50 and 60 people) whom NH will lodge in different hotels throughout the city. It will rely on the support of the Hotel NH Collection Eurobuilding to prepare its gastronomic offering. “Innovative cuisine, emotional and modernist, which for years is the reference in the whole world”, is the definition offered by the organization on the style of Grant Achatz, which the chef usually prefers not to define. For their temporary move to Madrid, it seems that the chef will reflect, on the one hand, his vision of the other side of the Atlantic and, in particular, Spain; at the same time, as in all of his projects, he tries to respond to a reflection: to rethink how nowadays a restaurant can be, under new guidelines and under a new relationship with the client. “You have to be aware of the titanic effort that Alinea’s move to Madrid involves,” insists Dani García. For Alinea Madrid’s menu, Achatz wants to “pay tribute and homage to Spain; use influences from all the zones of Spain, we will see products in Madrid’s markets, but also seafood from the cost and products from different places. Neither should we forget that what we are bringing is Alinea Chicago to Madrid, so our menu will be a mix of the two things”, says the cook, who admits “the influence that Spain has had in my kitchen and in my inspiration”. Additionally, after his trip to Marbella, Barcelona and San Sebastian last March, Achatz decided to create the Tapas Menu at Next, another of his spaces in Chicago.

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The allies in Spain. On the one hand is NH Hotel Group, which acts as a host to install Alinea in the Hotel NH Collection Eurobuilding. This hotel group is comprised of a potent team of chefs with Michelin stars: the two stars Óscar Velasco, en Santceloni in Hesperia Madrid; Paco Roncero, in La Terraza del Casino, in NH Collection Casino de Madrid; Chris Naylor, with a star, in Vermeer, in the Hotel NH Barbizon Palace of Amsterdam; together with other cooks like Luis Bartolomé, Ángel Aylagas or David Ros, among others. Specifically, NH Collection Eurobuilding is comprised of Luis Bartolomé’s kitchen; a headquarters of 99 Sushi Bar, from the León brothers, DOMO, as a concept of kitchen and cocktail bar from Paco Roncero and Diego Cabrera; apart from the fact that David Muñoz is located with DiverXO in the lower level of the hotel. Like this, NH totals 10 Michelin stars in Madrid and, for a month, it will total 6 in this hotel, including Alinea.

On the other hand, the organization of Alinea’s move is supported by the Group Dani Garcia and the gastronomic agency, Mateo & Co., who will carry out Chef Achatz’s logistical and organizational support necessary for his stay in Spain”, according to their announcement. Additionally, the project has the support of the Spanish Tourism Board. “There is a long list of kitchen requirments,” points out the organization.

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A unique initiative in Spain. Madrid has for some time welcomed ‘pop-up’ formats (and most prominent is The Table By, which has just begun its second season in the Urso Hotel & Spa). But, up until now and except for dinners of 4 or 6 hands, neither the market of the capital, nor the Spanish gastromarket, have they before welcomed an initiative so ambitious and attractive like this one: it is the first time that an international (and American) cook settles in Spain for so much time (four weeks). “It’s an exceptional move in which, for the first time, an international chef with three Michelin stars changes continents with all of his team to be located in Spain”, points out the Alinea ‘pop-up’ organization. In the global context, it’s a strategy on the rise among the chefs: the temporary move of a restaurant, while it closes at its headquarters. In January 2015, the Dane René Redezepi moved Noma to Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo; and, in 2016, he will move it to Australia, where the British Heston Blumenthal functioned as a ‘pop-up’ a few months ago, while its headquarters, The Fat Duck (recently reinaugurated) was closed for renovations, with the idea to open the following year a headquarters for his concept Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. On their part, the Roca brothers have spent two summers fronting their internationalization under the format of world tour with BBVA, which has taken them to the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Turkey, in the August closing period of El Celler de Can Roca, currently number one in the world.

To open in Madrid? Achatz smiles, and between laughs, affirms: “Let’s see first how this experience goes”, he says.

Photo source: Alinea and MFG-Gastroeconomy.

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"Soy economista de formación y periodista de profesión. Mi vocación es escribir, casi de lo que sea. Por una promoción profesional, empecé a escribir sobre gastronomía como vía de escape y, tras unos años, es a lo que decidí dedicarme, con el portal GASTROECONOMY como principal proyecto. Me encanta comer y escribir y sostengo que, en el sector gastronómico, hay mucho que contar desde la seriedad, el rigor y la profesionalidad. La palabra 'foodie', que formó parte del subtítulo de este 'site' en sus primeros años, hoy me da alergia. En todo caso, el lujo es poder escribir, algo que me encanta y que me enseñaron a hacer en mi casa y en el diario económico Expansión (www.expansion.com)”.

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