Alinea, one of Chicago’s most important, internationally acclaimed restaurants, has, uh, "inspired" some other culinary wizards yet again. The latest copycat appears to be a new company out of Toronto called Edible Balloons that is producing machines that can blow “taffy-like” balloons that look uncannily like the toffee-based ones that have been on Alinea’s menu since 2012. The balloon was originally created by Alinea’s executive chef Mike Bagale; during a 2016 interview, Bagale called the unusual dish a “step forward in cuisine; this is actually something that hasn’t been done before.”
Edible Balloon’s owner, Kermit Joseph Lee, has a background in food science and went to culinary school. It’s not clear if he’s ever been to Alinea, but the balloon is one of the restaurant’s most-famous — and most-Instagrammed — courses on the tasting menu.
Chef Grant Achatz and his restaurant partner Nick Kokonas run Alinea, which opened in 2005, in addition to Next, which started serving in 2011, as well as a cocktail bar called the Aviary, and Roister, a casual concept. Kokonas told Eater via email: “We get a constant stream of copycats but this one seems unusually identical. I guess it’s flattering.” Kokonas also reiterates that recipes cannot be patented or legally protected in any way.
Over the years, the restaurant group’s unique, technology-forward ideas have been replicated numerous times. In 2014, a California-based designer tried to Kickstart a poor copy of the Aviary’s signature drinking and infusion vessel, the Porthole. Kokonas asked them to take it down. In 2011, one restaurant in Miami and two different restaurants in Austin mimicked Alinea’s menu design and concept. They were all appropriately shamed for their copy-catting ways.
• All Alinea Coverage [ECHI]