- Celebrity chef Cat Cora and the owners of Chicago’s Alinea are feuding after she said she was denied a table at the restaurant on Saturday despite having a reservation.
- Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas wrote a response to Cora’s now-deleted Instagram post which criticised the restaurant, saying that Cora did not show up for her initial reservation booked for Friday.
- Kokonas said that after Alinea staff rescheduled the booking for Saturday, Cora’s assistant canceled the 9 p.m. reservation as it was “too late.” According to Kokonas, Cora’s assistant was worried she wouldn’t get ahold of her boss before she would arrive.
- The restaurant, being at full capacity, could not seat Cora when she arrived, according to Kokonas.
- Kokonas told INSIDER that he believes that Cora “owes [Alinea] staff an apology for her behaviour,” while Cora told us that she “did not like the way the restaurant handled the mistake.”
Celebrity chef Cat Cora, known as the first female Iron Chef on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” and the owners and employees of Chicago’s only Michelin three-star restaurant Alinea recently engaged in a public feud.
The famous chef says she was denied a table when they arrived at Alinea on Saturday night despite having made a reservation. However, the restaurant’s co-owner Nick Kokonas said Cora failed to show for a reservation made the previous night on Friday, and said that, after Alinea staff rescheduled the booking for 9 p.m. on Saturday, the reservation was canceled when Cora’s assistant told them it was “too late.”
Kokonas said the restaurant was at full capacity when Cora arrived and therefore could not seat her.
After she was unable to get a table, Cora shared an Instagram post directed at Alinea
Cora directed the Instagram post at Grant Achatz, the restaurant’s head chef and co-owner. She wrote that she had a reservation and yet was told on arrival by Devin McKinney, Alinea’s general manager and head of food and beverage, that they made a mistake and did not have a table available.
“We understand that mistakes can be made but at least show your face, come and apologise to your guests,” she wrote. “Chef Grant was there per Devon [sic] and didn’t even come out.”
She concluded the post with a direct message for Achatz, writing: “Chef Grant – you should take a lesson on this from your mentor and my friend #charlietrotter RIP or even some of our other fine colleagues,” and proceeded to tag other famous chefs including David Chang and Thomas Keller.
“After a frustrating encounter, the post was originally put up a to start a conversation about what hospitality means to people,” Cora told INSIDER over email. “My wife and I did not like the way the restaurant handled the mistake they made with our reservation. […] We accomplished what we wanted: a conversation.”
Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas wrote a response to Cora’s Instagram post on Medium in which he defended his employees and claimed that Cora had actually missed her first reservation
According to screenshots of messages from the booking app Tock, which were included in Kokonas’ Medium post, Cora’s assistant, Veronica Van Sant, made a reservation for Cora and her wife for Friday, March 1, at 5 p.m.
When they did not arrive for their initial reservation, Kokonas said that Alinea staff reached out to reschedule for 9 p.m. the following night and included further screenshotted messages in his Medium post. According to the messages, Van Sant agreed but subsequently notified the restaurant that the new reservation would be too late.
Since Alinea said it was fully committed for Saturday night in one of the screenshotted messages, Kokonas said on Medium that Chef Achatz confirmed to staff in advance that Cora could not be seated at an earlier time. According to Kokonas, a member of Alinea’s hospitality team called Van Sant to relay the message that Cora and her wife would not be seated if they arrived without a reservation.
According to the record Kokonas said the hospitality team sent him, Van Sant requested that Chef Achatz call Cora directly, but the Alinea staff member told her that, as the person who booked the reservation, it was her responsibility to notify Cora. Van Sant then voiced concerns about whether she would be able to get in touch with Cora and that the couple might show up for dinner anyway, which they did.
“We were told that she would likely show up anyways wanting a table,” Kokonas told INSIDER in an email. He said that it is “the Alinea Group’s policy not to comment on private guests’ experiences,” but he said that he made an exception given Cora’s behaviour after she was denied a seating at the restaurant Saturday night.
Kokonas wrote on Medium that, after Cora had been informed that Alinea staff would not give her a table, she “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 ‘f— you, f— Grant, f— Alinea’ while flipping off one of our kindest veteran servers who tried mightily to apologise even though the situation was not his fault.”
“It’s odd to me that anyone thinks there is ambiguity here,” Kokonas told INSIDER. “She showed up and didn’t have a table. From all communication, she should have known that – and she demanded a table due to ‘chef code.’ But even if we made an error, our team doesn’t deserve the verbal abuse and tirade that she gave them. I cannot imagine a restaurant owner doing that in another restaurant and then lecturing us on hospitality. That’s why I posted on Medium.”
Kokonas told us that Cora deleting her Instagram post “speaks volumes.”
“She has not contacted our team at all,” he added. “I believe she owes our staff an apology for her behaviour.”
Despite the disagreement, Cora seemed to have a positive message for Chef Achatz.
“We wish Grant, who is undeniably one of the most accomplished chefs, only the best,” Cora told INSIDER. “We always try to support local restaurants and chefs wherever we go and will continue to do so.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.