It’s fair to say that the past few weeks haven’t gone particularly well for POTUS 45. He’s seen Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of Russian interference and collaboration intensify, his own lawyer accidentally admit that all the rumours might well be true and a Democratically controlled congress reject his ridiculous plans for a 2,000 mile border wall. For a man used to getting his own way, these are trying times.
Last week, the public got a real glimpse into the true extent of White House suffering when Donald Trump unveiled his plans for a celebratory banquet honouring collegiate football champions, the Clemson Tigers. Traditionally, such occasions are surrounded by pomp and circumstance, and demand a certain level of sophistication. It should be an opportunity for some of the nation’s finest young athletes to revel in the history and grandeur of one of America’s most famous buildings.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Trump had other ideas. Thanks to his self-imposed government shutdown, the White House kitchens were out of action for the team’s visit, forcing the President and his staff to think outside the box. Their solution was to provide catering in the form of a vast fast food feast, featuring McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Pizza, turning the White House dining room into a hungry eight-year-old’s fever dream.
Opinion is split over whether the team were pleased, disappointed or just baffled by the food that was made available to honour their achievement. One student was caught on mic claiming that he thought it was “a joke”. Nonetheless, many others have come forward to thank the President for his generosity and categorically state that they found the meal hugely enjoyable. But, despite earnest insistence from the Tigers, one restaurant owner has decided to take matters into his own hands and make up for the team’s anti-climactic White House visit.
Clearly annoyed by Trump’s inability to cater properly, owner of high-end, three Michelin star restaurant Alinea took to Twitter to voice is disappointment in the banquet and make the Tigers a much more exciting offer. Writing on January 15th, Nick Kokonas commented, “I could care less about college football, but I'm personally inviting the Clemson Tigers team and coaches to Chicago to experience what an actual celebration dinner should be. I'm not joking. Someone let them know what The Alinea Group does. It'll be worth it.”
Regularly cited as the best restaurant in Chicago and one of the greatest anywhere on earth, Alinea is the brain-child of ex-Thomas Keller pupil Grant Achatz, who specialises in creating mind-bending illusory feasts for both mind and stomach. Among his most famous creations are a spun sugar balloon that actually floats, and a dessert that is “painted” onto the dining room table. Featured on shows such as “Chef’s Table”, Alinea is rightly revered around the world. It is a marked step up from cold hamburgers.
Fine dining and fast food scratch two completely different itches, but Kokonas clearly believes that, in order to show champion athletes due deference, the former is certainly preferable to the latter. As he said in an interview with Eater Chicago, “These kids and coaches deserve better than cold fast food.” Fancy food might not necessarily be your cup of tea, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that hamburgers are a worthy replacement for an occasion that should be as significant as this.