Nick Kokonas wants the team “to experience what an actual celebration dinner should be."

By Mike Pomranz
Updated: January 18, 2019

By now, you’ve heard the story: On Monday night, President Donald Trump had the Clemson Tigers to the White House to congratulate the team on winning the College Football National Championship — as is customary — and he served the players and other guests a feast of fast food selections presented in their original wrapping on silver platters — as is not customary. Even with the government shutdown limiting staff, let’s simply call this choice “unprecedented.”

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So for one unprecedented gesture, comes another. In the aftermath of this low-brow White House dinner, Nick Kokonas — co-owner of the three Michelin-starred Alinea, often cited as the best restaurant in Chicago and regularly named as one of the best and most influential restaurants in all of the world — took to Twitter to give the national champions a different sort of opportunity. “I could care less about college football,” Kokonas began (and frankly, I believe him). “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.”

In a discussion with Eater Chicago, Kokonas confirmed that he was not joking and elaborated on what he would do. He told the site he would put the Tigers up in a nearby hotel, then give the team a tour of his company’s restaurants — which also includes The Office, Next, and Roister — before the big finale, Alinea. There’d even be celebratory non-alcoholic drinks for the players who are not yet legal for booze. “I am dead serious that we would blow it out of the water,” he told Eater. “These kids and coaches deserve better than cold fast food.”

The restauranteur later clarified on Twitter that he wasn’t thumbing his nose at hamburgers. “Nothing wrong with fast food from time to time,” Kokonas wrote in a response. “But when you knock off a national championship, it's time to teach our youth that there are experiences to strive for in life moving forward :-)  Plus... in the white house?  no.”

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