Life comes at you fast when you’re Grant Achatz. One day you’re battling online trolls over a coronavirus-themed amuse bouche at your new rooftop pop-up AIR (Alinea in Residence). The next day you’re closing your pop-up because a staffer has tested positive for actual coronavirus.
When a picture of the amuse bouche was posted by a satisfied customer, the last thing Achatz expected was a viral backlash. The Chicago chef went to great lengths to explain the snack and defend his integrity. But then one of his staff tested positive for coronavirus, and the pop-up had to close while other staff members were tested.
Achatz tweeted: ”The employee had not worked in days due to scheduling and felt fine. All employees with direct contact as defined by the CDC were removed from service and sought testing at [The Alinea Group's] expense. Because easily accessible testing is currently lagging in Chicago we arranged alternative testing options and are in process of getting all contact traced employees tested. Thus far, every result is negative.”
The pop-up remains closed until further notice, but this is the latest setback in just over a week for the acclaimed chef. The backlash over his amuse bouche began when David Baker, a former sous chef at Alinea Group’s Roister restaurant, posted a screenshot of the dish on Instagram, calling it “shameful”. This in turn unleashed a cascade of negative comments and anger. Baker later told The Chicago Tribune: “Considering the current state of the country and the restaurant industry as a whole, I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to the victims, their families, their diners and the restaurant industry.”