Battle of the Memoirs: Achatz vs. Tramonto
It’s a war of words.
Life on the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (Gotham Books, $27.50).
Scars of a Chef by Rick Tramonto with Lisa Jackson (SaltRiver, $24.99).
ACHATZ: Small-town Michigan boy grows up in family diner, spends life on quest for greatness. Trotter’s? No. Europe? No. French Laundry? Yes. Opens best restaurant in United States. Told by doctors he’s going to die of cancer. Survives. Continues quest.
TRAMONTO: Rochester boy gets born to Italian family. Grows up. Does drugs. Deals drugs. Gets in fights. Works at Wendy’s. Goes to rehab. Finds Jesus. Loses Jesus. Opens famous restaurants. Finds Jesus (again).
In medias res opening
ACHATZ: Achatz accepts the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef 2008, months after completing treatment for Stage IVb cancer that took away his ability to taste. “I worried that while I had beaten cancer, I had not won the fight for the restaurant I loved,” he writes. “But that award made all the difference.”
TRAMONTO: Tramonto wrestles with his thoughts as Osteria di Tramonto shutters. “I had done it all—and done it well,” he writes. “But now I wondered, What if I’ve reached the end?” (Spoiler alert: He hasn’t!)
ACHATZ: Riding around on ATVs before getting driver’s license
TRAMONTO: Dealing drugs; sleeping with waitresses
ACHATZ: Thomas Keller (French Laundry)
TRAMONTO: Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s)
Romantic wooing tactic
ACHATZ: Being Grant Achatz
TRAMONTO: Composing love poems from Journey lyrics for Gale Gand; leaving “roses” carved out of radishes and scallions on her car
Obligatory memory of Charlie Trotter
ACHATZ: “I never saw Trotter cook.”
TRAMONTO: “Charlie was standing at the line in the middle of the kitchen, sorting through a pile of kale with his dog resting at his feet. I hadn’t seen a dog in the kitchen since our travels in Europe.”
ACHATZ: “Chef Keller asked for a minimum of two months to work out the changes necessary in the French Laundry kitchen. Henry [Adaniya, Trio owner] wanted me there sooner, but I told him I would give chef Keller whatever he asked for.”
TRAMONTO: “Finally, I had had enough. I grabbed the tray in both hands and threw it at him, completely trashing his two-thousand-dollar Armani suit. The fight turned physical, and I knew I would kill him if I didn’t get out of there. I walked downstairs back into the kitchen and said to no one in particular, ‘I’m leaving and I won’t be back. I’ve had enough.’ ”
Pages dedicated to time spent at Trio
Paragraphs dedicated to divorce
ACHATZ: The second half of the book alternates between the voices of Achatz and Nick Kokonas, a Trio regular and former trader who opened Alinea with Achatz and became his close friend and health advocate.
TRAMONTO: Quotes from the Bible at the beginning of every chapter (“O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me…”); recipes at the end (Genoa ham and olive tapenade panini; roasted porcini-stuffed lamb saddle with five-bean ragout).