When Chefs Swap Kitchens: A-List Restaurants to Switch Chicago, New York Locations (for a Week)

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Some swaps—wives, for example—are clearly based on reality TV publicity grabs. But two renowned U.S. restaurants switching locations smacks of something that goes beyond basic PR buzz.

The Chicago Tribune reports that two Michelin three-star restaurants, Alinea in Chicago and Eleven Madison Park in New York City, will swap cities, each for a week this fall. And while the endeavor will be costly for diners (expect $495 per meal at each location, plus tax and tip), the businesses say they don’t expect to bring home any additional profits due to the move.

The goal instead is to test whether each brand has the potential to expand. Hundreds of tickets will be going on sale via the restaurants’ Facebook pages next month.

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Rated as the seventh best restaurant in the world according to the well-respected World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, Alinea hasn’t ventured outside of Chicago since it opened there in 2005. Starting Sept. 26, Alinea chef Grant Achatzand and his restaurant partner Nick Kokonas will bring their acclaimed molecular gastronomy to the Eleven Madison Park kitchen for five nights.

Achatz told the Chicago Tribune that the endeavor not only keeps his staff on its toes, but also allows him to prove critics wrong: “I can’t tell you how many chefs have said to me, ‘Yeah, you’re a big fish in a small pond. The only reason you’re so popular is because you’re in the Midwest.’ In a way, we’re amped up. I want to introduce Alinea food to the jaded New Yorker. We’re going to show New Yorkers what Chicago food is all about.”

On the flip side, the 10th best restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park—winners of the James Beard Foundation Award for outstanding restaurant in 2011 and outstanding chef (Daniel Humm) in 2012—will transfer its chef to Chicago on Oct. 10.

The entire process, dubbed 21st Century Limited, is a play off the 20th Century Limited luxury passenger train that connected the two cities. And behind the concept, which was hatched over a pizza dinner, is a logistical nightmare: The owners only have three days to coordinate about 12 staff from Alinea arriving at Eleven Madison Park to help train the New Yorkers in Chicago-style cuisine. Two weeks later, the groups reverse the training process.

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