Alinea Defends A $1500 Dinner Bill

If you have been dutifully setting aside your $22 a day in the buildup to December 2’s epic Thomas Keller/Grant Achatz dinner at Alinea, but you have also been wrestling with questions like “Oh my god, this dinner is $1500.00, that is so much money, holy crap, holy crap, holy crap,” you are not alone: Blogger Catherine from Foodmusings was so outraged by the price point set by “two greedy chefs” that she decided to boycott both chefsforever.

But then Alinea managing partner Nick Kokonas got in touch with her.

(We should note, at this point, that Nick Kokonas deserves some kind of award for being the most responsive, most media-aware restaurateur we have ever encountered, from the time he left a comment on here stating Alinea’s position on TableXchange, to the time we emailed him something we’d posted about Alinea mere seconds before, and he replied with “I already saw it.” The man owns the internet. Also, since he is probably reading this, Hi Nick!)

Nick explained to Catherine what, exactly, the grand-and-a-half price tag buys a dinner attendee. In Catherine’s words:

The food, of course, which any moron could expect to include top-notch caviar and other expensive ingredients. It also includes wine pairings, many of which will be vintage champagnes and other library wines … There is also the cost of the books, both over $100 [Actually the Alinea book is $40, and the French Laundry book runs $75, but we’re talking drops in the bucket], the tax and tip.

What you might not know, and I certainly did not, was that, in the case of the Per Se and TFL dinners, Alinea will be flying eight chefs to the host city. Though I did not hear from the Keller camp, nor did I ask, presumably they are flying a similar number of folks to and fro. So the travel costs factor in.

All in, that takes the hard costs up to such a number that $1500 is a fair price.

But that’s not all! In her original post, Catherine had chided Keller and Achatz for setting such a high price without any of the proceeds going to charity. Enter Nick:

Beyond that, Mr. Kokonas shared his thoughts on charity events. Many of them don’t live up to the “charitable” idea they advertise but are merely excuses for wanton spending and exorbitant price tags, something he abhors. Can’t disagree with him there — adding a charity to the event might be good PR but a hollow gesture is a hollow gesture.

We just checked with Alinea, and seats for the December 2 dinner are still available — though please note, if you’re just now getting on the train and are beginning your daily amortization of the per-head price, as of today you’ve got to up your daily stashaway to $24.59. The days of $22 are long gone.


The reason to boycott French Laundry forever [food, and other musings]
Eating Crow [food, and other musings]
You Must Do This: Set Aside $22 A Day [previously]
Alinea [MenuPages]
Alinea [Official Site]

[Photo: An Alinea tablescape, via amanda_chou’s Flickr]

Alinea Defends A $1500 Dinner Bill