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An Achatz sidebar: U. of C. cancer research gets big bump with Alinea charity dinner

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Amid the hubbub at his attention-getting, concept-changing restaurant, chef Grant Achatz will focus his energy Tuesday in a different direction: cancer research.

Achatz will cook a 13-course dinner tomorrow at Alinea for 50 people, at $2,500 a head, to benefit head and neck cancer research at the University of Chicago.

The U. of C. is familiar territory for Achatz, who was treated there for tongue cancer, an experience he wrote about in his memoir published earlier this year, Life, On the Line. achatz-FOO-0302-21.JPG

This is the third year of his fundraising dinner, an idea he pitched to the U. of C. When Achatz was seeking opinions on how to treat his cancer, the medical team there was the only one that told him they wouldn't have to cut out his tongue.

"Ater treatment, obviously it became very important to me to support medical institutions that think outside of the box," Achatz says. "In talking with doctors, ironically, a lot of this forward-thinking movement in medicine is severely underfunded because the medical institution as a whole is very old-school."

Alinea is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. "I was like, 'Look, we can have my staff donate their time,' " he says.

Attendees pretty much get the run of the place. "We make it fun, and the food's pretty good," Achatz deadpans. "So on top of the ticket price, a lot of times, they'll write an additional check."

The event has netted about half a million bucks.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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