Grant Achatz's mission is simple: He wants to make you throw out your preconceptions of what restaurants do and what meals should taste like. Achatz, among the most celebrated chefs in the U.S and the man behind Chicago's award-winning Alinea restaurant, knows a thing or two about taste: In 2007, the chef underwent a battle with tongue cancer that left him unable to taste anything. After aggressive treatment, he declared himself cancer-free later that year, and began regaining his ability to taste. Achatz recently sat down with LIFE to explain the thinking behind the most spectacular, most mind-bending dishes served at some of the world's best restaurants. Pictured: Achatz at in the kitchen of his Alinea.