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Lessons From the World’s Best Restaurant

Eating at the restaurant Alinea was one of the best experiences of my life. Named “Best Restaurant in the World” by Elite Traveler Magazine, Alinea exemplifies greatness.

To learn more, I sat down with Nick Kokonas, one of the minds behind Alinea. We talked about his lessons for success, what sex and food have in common (seriously), why Nick doesn’t care about customer feedback, and more.

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Lessons learned in this episode:

  • How to make sure you’re not limiting yourself.
  • Why you should ignore certain customer feedback (and which specific feedback to ignore).
  • The reason Nick dropped $140,000 on table for his restaurant.
  • Experiencing Trump in-person — what it was like and lessons learned.
  • Nick’s keys to hiring amazing team members who make your life easier.
  • Why it’s important to always ask for a discount.
  • The secret to why restaurants have tablecloths
  • Idea validation (and how to tell if you have a bad business idea)

The Challenge: What’s ONE lesson you learned from Nick and Alinea you can incorporate in your own life, career, or business this week?

Leave a comment and tell me how you did on this week’s challenge!

Links discussed in this episode:



Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat

Alinea (book)

Modernist Cuisine at Home

The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science

Innovator’s Dilemma

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13 responses to “Lessons From the World’s Best Restaurant”

Johnny Lasater
May 15, 2017 at 12:01 am


I’m loving the podcast, but this one was hard to listen to, so I edited out the background noise. It’s super easy to do with Audacity – takes a few minutes max. It’s not lossless and the intro audio gets screwed up a bit, but the actual interview is much, much easier to listen to IMO.

Download Link:

Instructions if you want your guy to do this in the future.

Hope that helps.

Noah Kagan
May 16, 2017 at 11:36 am

Thanks for taking the time to do that.

April 9, 2017 at 2:25 pm

What was the every day wine to drink recommendation? Great conversation overall! Loved the 10th anniversary party with sledgehammers!

Steve Nathan
March 26, 2017 at 4:12 am

I really enjoyed this episode. In particular I liked his views on feedback.

Hansel Outler, LMT
March 20, 2017 at 7:50 am

I have listens to all of your podcast as this one of the best. I backed up a couple of times to make sure i got the information.
I love the story concept of this podcast bluster two guys talking.
Valuable lessons on negotiating and greatness. I stopped the recording to read the article
I also forwarded this podcast to a friend who would really enjoy this podcast.
I also would love a transcript, some things I just have to see.
Thank you for a great podcast looking forward to the next great one.

Jason Randell
March 17, 2017 at 2:18 pm

I love it. They need a new website!

March 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm

This was an amazing podcast to take in, had to listen a second time. There were so many takeaways, it’s really hard to choose one. Easily the best is finding great people to work with, it really doesn’t matter what you do but if you’re surrounded by fantastic people then it really does make everyone better. Increasing points of leverage though is the seemingly obvious takeaway that I had never thought about the way it was presented here; this will be something I incorporate more intentionally into my career.

This was easily my favorite episode so far. It really adds a lot when you’re able to capture that conversation with other people, there are subtle things that just can’t be captured when trying to recap a conversation no matter how great the notes are. Going to agree with James in the comments, capturing people doing great things in their environment is something special that no other podcast is doing. It can make the audio challenging but the content was superior to anything I’ve found on any podcast.

March 16, 2017 at 9:12 am

Great interview. I loved the dating advice regarding the decision to marry.

Andrew "mo money" Miner
March 15, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Wow. This episode struck a chord for me like no other. I’ve worked in ultra fine dining (one owner sat at “His” booth like a king), pizza+beer joints and even managed at The Cheesecake Factory San Francisco. I was hanging on every word. The restaurant industry is SO difficult, but the relationships are what make it worth it (money too, of course).

Lots of takeaways here. One is him being an outsider in the industry. “The way we’ve always done it” is not always sound logic.

Everything Nick said was spot on. He’s like the Marshawn Lynch of restaurants…

Showing up at 5am just to mess with everyone’s mind is so rad. That’s going to be my personal challenge moving forward. Just be earlier/faster/better than everyone else.

Gaële R
March 15, 2017 at 4:53 am

Another great podcast from you Noah—inspiring, ‘no bullshit’ approach, really motivational. Value value value. Thanks!
Ps: Kenji Lopez and Alain de Botton’s books on the way 🙂

March 14, 2017 at 11:19 pm

My favorite episode so far, and by a lot – have listened to it twice, going on three times, so it gets twenty minutes of my time for some extended feedback.

Following him around at his place of work was unique. Less of a prepared podcast vibe, more of a field trip. Came across as very natural.

Also, it unlocked stories you wouldn’t otherwise get. Love the story about the $140k trapezoidal refrigerator that is 6 inches too long. Love the detail on how they treat it with sandpaper, rubbing the same way, every night. Incredible attention to detail. You wouldn’t get these details on a normal audio podcast: you get them because he’s right there next to you, showing you things.

Another great detail was unlocked when he talked about the consequences of taking himself out of certain decisions. The story about the air lock was fantastic. Practical advice on ordering: ask for a discount and ask for a date, you have two points of leverage and you can negotiate by backing off on one. Great story.

For the most part you got out of his way when he was on a roll and didn’t interject yourself too much. Some guests over-joke, over-interject. You were mostly fine. Built rapport, but not too ass kissy.

I wish there was a transcript just for the part where he talks about going into the Merc at 5 am to be there before everyone else, and leaves later than everyone else, just to fuck with everyone and because he’s driven and competitive. Love this. On a connected point, he says that at a certain point he realized he only wanted to work with great people, and he was attracted to Grant for that reason. I love the hard edge he has and that he doesn’t disguise it or soften it with platitudes.

Love this guest. Just goes to show that great episode doesn’t require great sound if you have a great subject. And BTW your audio transcription of the part where he talked about putting wine in a blender to aerate it was just fine. Find more guests like this and make field trips to talk with them in their natural professional environment. Is anyone else doing this?

Noah Kagan
March 15, 2017 at 11:50 am


SUPER appreciate you leaving this feedback. Really hard to know what people enjoy or takeaway.

I emailed you the transcript, it took 2 weeks to edit out all the background noise or cut some stuff out.

The field trips most definitely. Been reaching out actively to products and people I want to help share their stories 🙂

May 2, 2017 at 8:23 pm

James. Can i get a copy of the transcript too?

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