Although Eleven Madison Park opened to much fanfare and subsequent acclaim in 1998, it was Danny Meyer’s hiring of Swiss-born Daniel Humm to helm the kitchen in 2006 that elevated the place to the level of the finest restaurants in the country.
A cryptic tweet from Grant Achatz popped up on our Twitter feed three minutes ago, and it's gotten the whole food world buzzing. "This should be fun! EMP+Alinea. NYC + Chicago. Friends, food, fun, freedom," Achatz wrote, hashtagging #21stCenturyLtd.
The video included shows the team over at Eleven Madison Park packing everything up in boxes labeled "Chicago," while Achatz's team at Alinea packs up their goodies in boxes labeled "New York," including their head chef. The two teams walk to their respective train stations (Grand Central, Union Station), and then what? It's all guesswork from here.
The project, called 21st Century Limited, references the 20th Century Limited train line, which ran between New York and Chicago. Perhaps this means the two restaurants will be picking up and switching places? In a 2011 interview with The Daily Meal, Achatz did mention high-end pop-up concepts.
"One of the things we’ve talked about is maybe Alinea ceases to exist in its current location. Maybe we just take it on the road. Make it [go] to Manhattan for a month, and then to LA for a month, and then to Miami for a month, and then to London, Paris, and Barcelona," Achatz said. "If you could make that work — and again, people have done pop-up restaurants and they’re great — but if you could make that work on another level, on a high level, that would be something."
Chicago Tribune reached out to Achatz's team, where Nick Kokonas and Achatz vaguely said, "We're excited to be working on a project with Will (Guidara), chef (Daniel) Humm and the entire team at EMP." According to an email from Kokonas, more information will be out next week. "At this time, we're letting the video speak for itself... keep an eye on our FB page," Kokonas wrote to us.
Meanwhile, Humm and co. are similarly tight-lipped, saying nothing except this: "We've spent the last two years thinking how we can collaborate with them. We respect them so much. We’re so happy we've finally found a way."
Chicago Tribune notes that Alinea’s ticketing system shows that the restaurant will be closed Oct. 10 to 14 for a private event. Perhaps it’s a sign to clear your calendars? Even better, the 21st Century Ltd Facebook page has this to share: "The 20th Century Limited ran between New York and Chicago in 16 hours... in comfort, luxury, and speed — spanning space and time. The 21st Century Limited will run a brief engagement between New York and Chicago in September and October of 2012."
In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears open for tidbits.