Greek-American celebrity chef and TV host Cat Cora, the first woman to win the title of Iron Chef, on March 2, stormed out of Alinea, the top rated three-star Michelin restaurant, co-owned by another Greek-American, Nick Kokonas. A mix-up with Cora’s reservation left her without a table on Saturday night, Chicago Eater reported.
“On Saturday night, Cora, who was not seated, stormed out of the Lincoln Park restaurant yelling obscenities,” Eater reported, adding that Cora took to social media to vent her anger posting on Instagram on Sunday morning, “criticizing Alinea and writing that the restaurant botched her reservation.”
According to Eater, surveillance camera footage shows that Cora gave the middle finger to the restaurant’s staff as she left the fine dining establishment, considered one of the best restaurants in the world. Alinea is the only restaurant in Chicago with the highest honor, three stars, in the Michelin Guide.
In Chicago for the International Home + Housewares Show, Cora “criticized chef Grant Achatz for not rectifying the situation and called the restaurant ‘arrogant’ and ‘disrespectful,’ Eater reported, adding that “she told staff that she knew Achatz; Alinea’s team disputes the friendship, but Cora was angry that Achatz, who was in the kitchen on Saturday, didn’t personally address the problem.”
Cora’s now-deleted Instagram post read, “We understand that mistakes can be made but at least show your face, come and apologize to your guests.”
Cora eventually ate at fellow Iron Chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat restaurant on Randolph Street, Eater reported.
Meanwhile, Kokonas defended Alinea’s reputation, commenting on Cora’s social media post and sharing his staff’s side of the story on Medium, an online publishing platform. He noted that “Cora’s posts weren’t confirmation of her reservation,” posting “screenshots showing that Cora had a confirmation for a Friday reservation and claimed that Cora didn’t like the time slot and no showed,” Eater reported.
Kokonas added that “Cora threw a tantrum on Saturday because she expected special treatment that she didn’t receive,” Eater reported.
A back and forth of emails was apparently exchanged between Cora’s assistant and Alinea’s team trying to confirm a reservation. Cora did not make a Friday, March 1 reservation at 5 PM and Kokonas posted a screenshot of a confirmation for Saturday at 9 PM, but Cora’s assistant responded it was too late and was informed by Alinea’s team that there was nothing available earlier.
“Alinea’s team and the assistant eventually chatted on Saturday and according to an email screenshot, the team told her that they wouldn’t be able to seat Cora if she showed up at 5,” Eater reported, adding that “the assistant, according to Kokonas, told his team that she was worried Cora would show up at that time, and that she was struggling to reach Cora.”
Alinea then explained they were canceling the 9 PM table “Kokonas wrote that the team proceeded to email Cora summarizing what happened,” Eater reported.
On March 3, Kokonas told Eater that “he didn’t like how Cora’s post tagged several industry chefs including David Chang, Thomas Keller, and Dominque Crenn” and “he would have never published a post if Cora left and let it go, even if she acted ‘disruptive and offensive.’”
“I’m particularly sensitive when any customer tries to use social media as a cudgel to get their way. For her to do it in a threatening manner — while her wife tried to video [GM Devin McKinney] as he apologized — is just crazy,” Kokonas wrote via email, Eater reported.
Social media soon picked up on the story and comments from chefs and the media across the country were posted with most just trying to figure out the details. The original post on Medium by Kokonas included actual emails which were later “removed due to legal concerns,” Eater reported.
Following Kokonas’ Medium post and Cora’s deleted Instagram post, Nicole Ehrlich, Cora’s wife, sent Eater a statement from Cora explaining that the “post was originally put up to start a conversation about what hospitality means to people… We accomplished what we wanted: A conversation.”
Kokonas was also in the news earlier this year when he criticized the fast food dinner the White House served to the Clemson football team following their national championship win and offered the team a real dinner at Alinea.