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Chef Grant Achatz has been called a genius, a magician and the Beethoven of the culinary world. His Chicago restaurant, Alinea, is at the forefront of a food movement called "molecular gastronomy," which uses scientific, nontraditional techniques like liquid nitrogen and whimsical ingredients like pillows filled with lavender air to evoke sensory memories. In 2007, Gourmet magazine awarded him its highest honor—best restaurant of the year.

Earning that honor was hard work, and Grant's grueling 20-hour work days started to take a toll. One day, he noticed a very small, white spot on the left side of his tongue. Grant ignored the spot for months before asking his dentist about it. He says she thought it was probably related to stress and was nothing to worry about. Grant went to get a second opinion from a general practitioner, who told him the same thing. Eventually, the pain became so intense that eating became difficult, and Grant says he lost 20 pounds.
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Published on March 10, 2009

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