Inside Alinea, just like a Marine

Giuseppe Iannotti tells us about his internship with Grant Achatz: «It was crazy hard but in the end...»

20-10-2014
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A "stolen" photo of Giuseppe Iannotti in the kitchen of Alinea, in Chicago, during his internship. Lots of work, many lessons, a perfectly-working mechanism thanks to a well-coordinated team even though chef Grant Achatz was never to be seen

In my career as a chef I was always criticised for not having a territorial vocation or a leitmotiv in my choice of dishes. I always explained that the dominating element in my creations is the choice of raw materials, which need to be excellent. My journey in the restaurant industry was not the usual one, because I cannot boast having masters of points of reference that have forged me or influenced me. And until last summer I studied and worked introspectively to make my philosophy in the kitchen strong, so much so that I could confront myself without the risk of indulging in contaminations or in the temptation of cloning. My journey towards what is outside, therefore, had to start with one of the most important restaurants in the world and Alinea was almost an obliged stop, both because of the man who is behind it – thanks to his determination he won against a disease that had been declared terminal – both because of the difficulties in entering that kitchen. When they accepted my application for an internship I almost couldn’t believe it. Together with my friend Vittorio Colleoni, of restaurant San Martino in Treviglio, also part of the big JRE family, I arrived in Chicago.

A laid-back selfie with the three “exceptional interns” who happened to be working hard in the kitchens of Alinea at the end of August: left to right and in an evident, decreasing, order; Vittorio Colleoni of restaurant San Martino in Treviglio, Giuseppe Iannotti of Krèsios in Telese Terme, David Muñoz of Diverxo in Madrid

A laid-back selfie with the three “exceptional interns” who happened to be working hard in the kitchens of Alinea at the end of August: left to right and in an evident, decreasing, order; Vittorio Colleoni of restaurant San Martino in Treviglio, Giuseppe Iannotti of Krèsios in Telese Terme, David Muñoz of Diverxo in Madrid

Despite being just like you would think, this city still takes your breath away. I hardly did any tourist stuff, though. At Alinea I started at 11 in the morning on a Tuesday in mid-August and finished this unique experience two weeks later. There was no lunch break except for a few seconds to drink or eat something at 3.15 pm, the break down time. Then the service from 5 to around midnight and the following three hours spent dismantling cells, fridges, drawers. I was up all day long, quickly doing all my tasks, as if I were in the Marines: everyone was focused, I’ve never seen such frenzy in the production line.

One executive chef, two sous chefs were completing a team of 35 elements, and from time to time some unique interns would arrive, such as David Muñoz of Diverxo in Madrid, too, who arrived during my second week. The work timing was extreme for everyone, inside that place it felt like hell, the rhythm was a massacre, it had to be perfectly clean, the organization and the storing of the raw materials were obsessive: for three days in a row I had to tidy up a cell because I had not passed the examination due to ta mistake in storing some food in the wrong grids: we had to dismantle everything and start over.

Giuseppe Iannotti during his lesson at the latest edition of Identità Milano

Giuseppe Iannotti during his lesson at the latest edition of Identità Milano

I learnt a lot. I learnt how it is possible to manage an activity with 70 employees. Almost no stoves, no preserved raw materials, everything was prepared each day. I “stole” some techniques and let my creativity run for new dishes in my menu. I never tasted anything in the kitchen and I damned each moment I spent inside that place because when you’re working frantically on one side of the glass door, you don’t understand the meaning of what you’re doing. The last night, at last, Vittorio and I dined there. Had I not booked in advance I would have not done it and it would have been the biggest mistake in my life. Because it was then that I understood, and I returned at peace with the world. See: Alinea is what you wouldn’t expect.


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