Acclaimed molecular gastronomy chef Grant Achatz caused a stir over the weekend when he took to his Twitter account to ask his followers if a ban on babies was in order at his three-Michelin-starred Chicago eatery Alinea.
The clearly ruffled Achatz paused his dinner service to complain about a couple at his restaurant who brought in an eight-month-old, who promptly started to wail.
"Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad," Achatz tweeted. "Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.."
Alinea obviously doesn't encourage diners to bring their babies — there are no high chairs on site; the baby sat on its mother's lap — but it doesn't have a written policy prohibiting their presence.
The establishment uses a ticketing system which requires would-be patrons to reserve, and pay for, their entire meal (minus the drinks) weeks in advance. If something comes up at the last minute, Alinea allows customers to sell their reservations or hand them off to someone else.
In other words, there is no reason to bring an infant to Alinea unless you want to — something Achantz doesn't recommend:
The chef's twitter solicitation brought out a who's who of opinionated eaters — from Chicago food writer Michael Nagrant, to Saveur's executive digital editor Helen Rosner.
"You do not take a baby to Alinea. Unless the babysitter cancelled last minute and Alinea would not refund your ticket. No other debate," tweeted Nagrant.
"Fancy restaurants should not have to specify no babies in precisely the same way they should not have to specify yes pants," added Rosner.
For his part, Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas said his restaurant has welcomed newborn diners in the past with out incident. "It's never about the kids," he told Nagrant. "It's always about the parents."
In an appearance on this morning's Good Morning America, Achatz followed up on his tweet by explaining that this was no ordinary whine. "I could hear it crying in the kitchen," he told GMA.
Though he hadn't yet reached a conclusion re: a baby ban, Achantz appeared to still be considering one.
"We want people to come and enjoy and experience Alinea for what it is," he said. "But we also have to be cognizant of the other 80 people that came in to experience Alinea that night."