Initiators #2 [and a free workbook]

[There's now a free digital workbook to go with Poke the Box. Subscribers to the Domino blog got it already. You can find it here.]

For thousands of years, restaurants were dull. Feeding the public is hard work, and being a chef was perhaps a craft, but not often an art.

Consider, then, the case of Grant Achatz, founding chef at the groundbreaking restaurant Alinea and his new restaurant, Next. Every three months, the restaurant is going to abandon its entire menu and start over. First up is a recreation of nineteenth century French food. Then, a futuristic Thai menu. Set it and forget it is precisely not the point. Given all the places you could go for dinner in Chicago, surely this one is now on the list… iniative is the reason.

Or David Chang, raised in Virginia, of Korean descent, who started a career in New York by building an homage to a Japanese noodle bar that may or may not be named after the inventor of dried ramen noodles. Chang is an iconoclast (he adds bacon to his broth, just because he can) and is on a tear, piling up one innovation after another. Failures along the way? Definitely. That's part of what it means to move forward.

And finally, Sarma Melngailis, a chef and entrepreneur who continues to redefine what a chef is supposed to do all day. She found a niche and started poking, building, launching and learning. Is a juice made from yuzu and dandelion for everyone? Of course not. That's part of the point.