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Online posts stir the pot in Chef Cat Cora, Alinea restaurant dispute

Iron Chef Cat Cora attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 2, 2018 in Bloomington, Minnesota. | Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

When Cat Cora, TV’s first female “Iron Chef,” got upset about not getting a table at Chicago’s exclusive Alinea restaurant this past weekend, the knives came out on the internet.

The restaurant’s co-owner, Nick Kokonas, spilled the tea in a detailed online post saying the world-renowned Cora, in town for the International Home + Housewares Show at McCormick Place, made a reservation through her assistant for Friday evening at Alinea — and Cora was apparently a no-show.

Alinea restaurant (center) in Chicago is photographed on October 20, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times
Alinea restaurant (center) in Chicago is photographed on October 20, 2017. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

The restaurant then reached out with a new reservation for Cora, at 9 p.m. the next night, Kokonas wrote. Cora’s assistant reportedly said OK initially, but later said that was too late, Kokonas wrote. Once Kokonas confirmed that there was no available seating at Alinea any earlier Saturday evening, he said he tried several times to confirm that Cora had gotten that message. Kokonas claims Cora’s assistant said she had not been able to reach Cora with word of the cancellation and feared Cora’s party might show up at Alinea on Saturday evening.

Apparently, that’s what happened, and when Cora was told Alinea had no table for her, Kokonas said Cora acted “entitled, self-important, and incredibly rude, condescending, and offensive to our hard-working staff,” allegedly yelling obscenities and flipping an obscene gesture.

For her part, Cora, in a now-deleted post on her Instagram page, called her treatment by Alinea “arrogant, disrespectful” and said she’d have felt better if restaurant Chef Grant Achatz had come out and apologized in person. “Food is about love, never do this to a guest much less a fellow Chef. “Food is about love, passion, art, sharing and making memories,” the post stated. The post also tagged other top-tier chefs including Rick Bayless and Graham Elliot.

Foodies ate it up on social media, largely criticizing Cora in the “dining debacle.”

Cat Cora said in a statement emailed to the Sun-Times on Sunday night that her IG post was intended to be a catalyst for discussion.

“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.”

She also praised Alinea’s chef and the city of Chicago in her statement.

“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.”