The Next Next Theme Is ... the Hunt; Plus: Alinea to Paris, London?

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At this weekend's Chicago Humanities Festival, Grant Achatz finally revealed the next Next theme, which should begin sometime in January. It's going to be called the Hunt, and all we know about is that it will have a focus on game meats. While this is a natural enough theme for both Achatz and Next chef Dave Beran, who both grew up in the kinds of small towns in Michigan where hunting is a common pursuit, we wonder if it will run into some flak here in Chicago, where any time Mike Sula writes about eating another species, it prompts dozens of angry comments. At the same time, if this is the same upcoming menu (which we assume it must be) that we heard was worked out before it had a theme settled upon, then maybe the Hunt is only one side of it and it's going to be something more intricate and varied about life in semi-rural America than merely a dozen courses of different woodland creatures. As usual, the more Next reveals, the more Next intrigues and fascinates.

According to reports, during his talk at the festival, Achatz touched on some other interesting possibilities, many of which he's talked about before. He apparently remains intrigued by synaesthesia, the melding of multiple senses, during a dining experience, talking about things like bringing nature into the dining room and having specific music composed for courses. He also seems to have gotten the travel bug, raising the idea of a restaurant operating somewhat like a touring theatrical company, popping up in different cities for a week at a time; having been to New York with Alinea, he now raises the idea of turning up in London or Paris in the near future. And finally, he left us with a great quote that deserves some mulling and interpretation in multiple directions: "I have no idea how people cooked without the Internet." [Twitter, from Frank Sennett and others]