A restaurant co-owner has invited the Clemson Tigers to dinner after President Donald Trump served the college football team fast food burgers. Picture: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
A restaurant co-owner has invited the Clemson Tigers to dinner after President Donald Trump served the college football team fast food burgers. Picture: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

Clemson Tigers invited to 'actual celebration dinner' after fast food feast

By Louisa Chu Time of article published Jan 17, 2019

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Chicago - Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas has invited the Clemson Tigers to dinner in Chicago.

The invitation follows President Donald Trump serving the college football team Monday a White House dinner of fast food burgers in paper packaging, pizza in boxes, salad in plastic clamshells, fries dispensed in tiny presidential paper cups with sauce packets splayed out on silver serving trays, all of it under lit candelabras.

Kokonas wrote on Twitter Tuesday night, "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."

Reached Wednesday by phone, Kokonas added, "Between the shutdown and the fast food amongst candelabras, I just thought they should get a second chance to doing it the right way."

"There's nothing wrong with fast food," said Kokonas. "I like a burger as much as anyone else. At the end of the day though, I'm betting they've had that as football players a thousand times. I bet they've had nothing quite like what we do."

Earlier in the week, the Burger King Twitter account trolled a Trump misspelling, writing, "due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders. just serving hamburgers today."

What would Kokonas serve and where? The Alinea Group includes internationally acclaimed restaurants Alinea and Next, plus Roister and The Aviary. Kokonas said he would start at the more casual Roister, located in the Fulton Market neighbourhood.

"I don't think you need a 20-course sit-down formal meal for a celebration for a football team," said Kokonas. "Some people on Twitter were saying 'oh they'll be hungry' and 'it'll be a hoity-toity meal' but no, it should be a celebration.

"What it's really about is tying back to something special for them," he added. "I imagine we'd have some heritage South Carolina cooking. I bet we have some spirits from the late 19th century that ties to the founding of the university."

Clemson University, founded in 1889, is located in Clemson, South Carolina.

"We know how to do it appropriately for the appropriate occasion, like maybe four or five suckling pigs roasted properly, and the Roister fried chicken. Then it would be nice to put them all on a bus and take them over to Alinea for a couple of signature desserts."

Alinea's most famous signature dessert was created by chef and co-owner Grant Achatz who plates the dessert directly on the covered table in front of diners, painting with sauces like an edible modern art performance.

Kokonas also wrote on Twitter the vintage Champagne he'd serve would likely cost more than the estimated 3 000 dollars spent on the White House fast food.

"We're not billionaires but we can afford to do it the right way," said Kokonas. "I'm trying to make this as non-political as possible. For me, this isn't about politics. It's about something we can do to correct something I thought was just wrong. That's it."

His restaurant Next will host a collaboration starting in August with chef Jose Andres, who's offering furloughed federal workers and their families free meals. Andres has been highly critical of Trump.

Kokonas has not yet received a response from Clemson to his invitation.

"I have a lot of people who've reached out from media outlets as well as a few of the professors from the university," he said. "Some people are saying the NCAA would not allow that to happen, because of eligibility rules and you're not allowed to give gifts to players. So I think we'd need to get NCAA permission to do this."

The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The restaurateur and tech entrepreneur added, "I'm just thinking back to when I was 20 or 21, going to a new city and having someone provide true hospitality is very humbling and mind-expanding."

"They already knew that pizza and McDonald's and Wendy's and Burger King existed. They probably have never experienced anything like what we could do for them. I just thought that would be fun."

"When you have a gift to give, the giving part is fun for us."


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