Restaurants & Bars | July 9, 2020 2:39 pm

Alinea Faces Backlash Over Coronavirus-Inspired Dish

Would you eat something shaped like a COVID-19 cell?

coronavirus deaths
Would you eat a coronavirus-shaped meal?

Acclaimed Chicago restaurant Alinea is facing backlash over a coronavirus-inspired dish. Its rooftop pop-up AIR: Alinea in Residence is serving guests a canapé that has been made to resemble a COVID-19 cell.

A photo of the dish, which consists of  a coconut custard with Szechuan peppercorn and freeze-dried raspberries, was posted to Instagram by Dave Baker, who wrote, “Unbelievable. @thealineagroup This isn’t ok… this isn’t ‘cute.’ This is shameful. How unbelievably disrespectful to anyone who’s life has been lost. I don’t care how you spin it, this is unacceptable.”

Alinea Group co-owner Nick Kokonas responded in the comments to the post, repeatedly defending the dish. “Art is often meant to provoke discomfort, conversation, and awareness. This is no different,” Kokonas wrote. “Everyone on here saying we are somehow oblivious need to think just a single level upwards.”

“But this — this is not disrespectful,” he wrote in the comments. “This is not ‘pro Trump’. This is not making light of the situation. This is manifesting and making visible what we all cannot see and reminding patrons, right as they arrive, that we are aware that this is still with us and will be for some time.”

Other commenters weren’t having it, however. “I think I’m mostly just blown away that given the everything that’s happened in the last 7 months, people cannot check their ego long enough to say, ‘You know what, you’re right — probably a bad look to make food in the shape of a coronavirus cell’ and instead vehemently defend their right to provoke instead of having an ounce of respect for the victims of this pandemic,” one wrote.

Despite the internet backlash, Kokonas says the response to the dish has been positive overall.

“Every day we get emails thanking our team for providing a unique, safe and pleasurable experience in these difficult times,” Kokonas told Block Club Chicago. “We are also proud that we have reemployed our team and provided a creative outlet to express what they do. We are working to extend the run into the fall if possible.”

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