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Chicago’s Alinea Invites Clemson Players to Dinner After Trump’s Fast-Food Feast

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The football team could “experience what an actual celebration should be”

President Trump Hosts College Football Champion Clemson Tigers At White House
The co-owner of Alinea wants to invite the Clemson Tigers to Chicago.
Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The co-owner of Alinea, Chicago’s highest-rated fine dining restaurant and a city pioneer for molecular gastronomy, has invited the members of the National Championship-winning Clemson Tigers for a celebration dinner. The invitation comes a day after the football team visited the White House where President Donald Trump feted them with a fast-food feast of Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Domino’s.

Nick Kokonas wrote that he wants the team to “experience what an actual celebration should be” in lieu of the fast food and that he was “not joking.” He proposed to Eater that he’d arrange a tour of his company’s restaurants; the Office, Next, Roister, and finish at Alinea. He’d offer non-alcoholic drinks for players under 21 and convince a nearby hotel to house the team: “I am dead serious that we would blow it out of the water,” he wrote via email.

Alinea is Chicago’s only restaurant with a full three-star rating from Michelin inspectors. It’s a luxurious spot and one of the most expensive restaurants in America with dinner costing between $205 to $495 per person, depending on the date, time, and area of the restaurant. In contrast, The Washington Post estimated that Trump’s fast-food meal cost him $3,000 for the 300 sandwiches, fries, pizza, and salad served Monday at the White House. The government shutdown meant the president’s kitchen staff was unavailable for the team’s visit.

“These kids and coaches deserve better than cold fast food,” Kokonas wrote.

The company apparently has a history of helping sports teams celebrate. Kokonas said after the Chicago Cubs broke the team’s 110-year championship drought in 2016, Alinea hosted the North Side baseball squad after its World Series parade.

He further explained the motivation behind his invitation in a reply to Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin: “nothing wrong with fast food from time to time. But when you knock off a national championship, it’s time to teach our youth that there are experiences to strive for in life moving forward.”

The Internet raged on Tuesday over the meal at the White House. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence even denied the accuracy of a meme about the visit that trashed Trump’s political foes. The meme, that since has been deleted on Twitter, stated: “President Trump got all our favorite foods, it was the best meal we ever had. Then we go and see the coastal elite media trashing it for not being organic vegan. We’re football players, not bloggers. This was a perfect blue collar party.”

In response, Lawrence wrote: “I never said this by the way...I don’t know where it came from.”

The Alinea Group is based in Chicago, far from the coasts. The company also runs Aviary and the Office locations in New York. None of the company’s establishments include extra-value combos, though at one time it did offer a fried chicken sandwich meal for lunch for $29. He tagged Clemson’s football team in his initial tweet and no one from the school has responded.

It’s not exactly clear if Kokonas would be allowed to throw a celebration for the team. The NCAA is a notorious mess as a governing body when it comes to student-athletes accepting gifts as it supposedly attempts to preserve integrity in amateur sports. The rigidity is notorious and includes preventing students from having enough to eat. Kokonas wrote that he’s aware of the NCAA’s authority and would seek its permission.

Kokonas wasn’t the only one who’s offered Clemson another meal. Good Morning America host and former NFL player Michael Strahan and cookbook author Ayesha Curry — who’s also married to NBA all-star Steph Curry — made their own offers.

A muted, carpeted dining room.
Matthew Gilson/Alinea Group

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