Alinea in Madrid: Q&A with Grant Achatz

This month’s Alinea pop up in the Spanish capital will see a unique collaboration. Tina Nielsen spoke to Achatz about his plans and working with David Muñoz

The American chef has closed his Chicago restaurant for refurbishment after 10 years, and moved into what is what is usually the VIP breakfast room in NH Collection Eurobuilding hotel for a month. The first week of the pop up will see a collaboration between Alinea and David Muñoz, the chef of DiverXo, Madrid’s only restaurant to hold three Michelin stars, which is also located in the hotel.

Achatz has often mentioned his connection to Spain – he travels there at least once a year and has many friends among Spanish chefs. “It was a natural place to choose,” he said when he spoke to Foodservice Consultant at the end of last year.

Doing international pop-ups is becoming a bit of a trend, why did you decide to take Alinea to Madrid?

After 10 years and serving 200,000 customers we have closed the Chicago restaurant for refurbishment and I knew that we’d have to find a source of income for all the employees. It just seemed a natural fit to do a couple of pop-ups; after Madrid we’ll be popping up in Miami.

How did you land on NH Collection Eurobuilding as the home for Alinea?

Last year I was in Marbella doing a dinner with the Spanish chef Dani García and I was chatting with him and his partner about my pop up idea. They were both confident they could make it happen and we have worked with Dani García Group as well as the public relations company Mateo & Co to put it all together.

We wanted to partner with someone who speaks the same language as us and NH Collection really prioritises food and beverage. The Eurobuilding hotel is enormous and they had a kitchen just sitting there and not being used. We have transformed the space into Alinea. We have brought in new carpets, built new banquettes and brought in tables and chairs. We have even changed the photos on the walls.

What can diners expect to see on the menu?

We wanted to bring Alinea to Madrid and we also feel it is important to do an homage to Spain, so we want to incorporate a lot of Spanish ingredients but we will do it the Alinea way. It is a very different process because of the availability of products and the promixity of the markets – we don’t typically have that in Chicago. It is really great for us to be exposed to those new products.

How will the collaboration with David Muñoz work out?

It will be a bit different from the way it usually works – typically he’d do a course and then I’d do a course and so on, but instead we have decided to change it a bit. Because the restaurants are within the same building we’ll have diners starting with several courses in one of the restaurants and finishing in the other. In between there is a transitional room, with another experience.

How well do you know David?

We know each other. I visited DiverXo in 2007 in the old premises and a couple of years ago David came and staged with us in the Alinea kitchen. It is pretty rare for somebody established to stage in another kitchen, but he had a window before moving into his new location at Eurobuilding and he wanted to see what we were doing

It is really fun coming up with ideas with him. In many ways we are very different, I have eight or 10 years on him, but we are both very creative. A lot of chefs establish a repertoire and recycle that, but we will keep inventing. It is fun to find somebody else who speaks that same language.

Tina Nielsen

Alinea in Madrid will be open from 12 January to 9 February at NH Collection Eurobuilding.

Photo: Luis Gaspar

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