We’ve got some restaurant drama brewing today after an argument between Iron Chef star Cat Cora and the Alinea restaurant in Chicago.
It seems that Cora arrived at Alinea on Saturday night expecting to have dinner at the three-star Michelin powerhouse. However, according to Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas (seen above), the booking her assistant made had been missed once on Friday and canceled for Saturday after the timing offered for a rebooking was not what she wanted.
After arriving at Alinea at the wrong time, only to be told there was no space for her, Cora posted her dismay on Instagram. She called out the restaurant’s chef Grant Achatz and tagged other restaurants in Chicago alongside other high profile chefs.
Kokonas, who said he had a detailed paper trail of timestamped emails of all of the booking requests made by Cora’s team, took to Medium where he posted a full response after he said her behavior was "absurd and offensive."
He wrote: “Cat Cora of Iron Chef fame (I love the original Japanese version) intentionally arrived 24 hours and 15 minutes late to a booking at Alinea, proceeded to create a scene, accuse our staff of sexism, invoked a “chef’s code” whereby we were expected to ‘roll a table into the kitchen’ for her, and then left with “fuck you, fuck Grant, fuck Alinea” while flipping off one of our kindest veteran servers who tried mightily to apologize even though the situation was not his fault.”
Cora’s original post has since been taken down but Kokonas was particularly upset that Cora had decided to tag industry professionals such as David Chang, Thomas Keller and the late Charlie Trotter in her post.
So, what went wrong?
"To be clear up front: Ms. Cora’s actions and behavior were entitled, self-important, and incredibly rude, condescending, and offensive to our hard-working staff. She was disruptive to our operations and other guests at Alinea who were there celebrating their special occasions. Her actions and subsequent post leave me no choice but to document her booking and behavior publicly — something I’d rather not do." Kokonas went on to post a timeline of events, originally including email exchanges that have since been removed.
Cora has replied to the drama with a statement in the Chicago Sun-Times.
She said: “After a frustrating encounter, the post was originally put up a to start a conversation about what hospitality means to people,” the statement said. “My wife and I did not like the way the restaurant handled the mistake they made with our reservation. They took their post down, we took our post down. We accomplished what we wanted: A conversation.”
“We wish Grant, who is undeniably one of the most accomplished chefs, only the best,” Cora’s statement continued. “We always try to support local restaurants and chefs where ever we go and will continue to do so. We Love Chicago, it’s one of our favorite cities and we can’t wait to come back.”
Kokonas's original tweet, in which he said he regretted having to post the story, was certainly welcomed by other restaurant workers and diners. Kokonas is a man who doesn't like no-shows - he even developed his Tock booking system to help tackle the issue faced by high-end restaurants when they are left in the lurch at customers who don't arrive for their bookings. Other chefs have also faced issues with no-show culture in the past, Matt Orlando famously wrote a letter to his no-show diners and Rene Redzepi once tweeted a pic from the kitchen to his. Many who work in the industry, and even those that don't, seem to support the restaurant in their decision to go full transparency.