The dinner served Monday at Chicago’s Giant restaurant was invitation-only.
The diners were food writers, social media “influencers” and other foodies who had no idea that their meal had been prepared three days earlier — and wrapped in Glad.
They also didn’t know, until they finished their repast, that cameras hidden in the centerpieces had filmed them eating, the Chicago Tribune reported.
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“People were not stoked about the reveal,” the restaurant’s Beard Award-nominated chef and co-owner, Jason Vincent, who was in on the stunt, told the Tribune.
The diners were livid.
“I was incredulous, but managed to promptly tell Jason Vincent that what he’s doing is unethical, potentially a violation of his license, and definitely a complete dereliction of hospitality,” invitee Adam Sokolowski, aka the “Chicago Food Dude,” wrote on his Instagram.
He included a photo of his invitation, which said the menu would be “using interesting preservation techniques and fresh seasonal ingredients.” It also said “real-time feedback” would be captured through images and video.
The Food Dude wrote that he got to the restaurant early. So he went next door to grab a drink, and the bouncer overhead him talking about having dinner at Giant.
The bouncer “comes up to warn us that it’s a scam. He explains that he saw the first seating before us leave disgusted because they realized they were being served old food.
“Seeing as it was such a critically-acclaimed restaurant, I couldn’t believe it, so I texted my friend who I knew was in the first seating. She confirms the details and says it’s for a @gladproducts Glad’s Press N Seal Cling Film* commercial, but you don’t find out anything until the end when they ask you to sign a contract for exclusivity.”
Sokolowski went to the restaurant and met a friend outside who had also heard what was going on and had decided not to go in.
“Chef sees us hovering outside reluctantly so he walks out to invite us in, and I tell him what I just heard. He acknowledges it and tries to placate us by saying the food is exactly how it’s prepared for the restaurant, just that it’s 3-days old but still tastes good!” Sokolowski wrote.
According to Eater Chicago, there were two seatings Monday. Sokolowsi was invited to the second one at 8:30 p.m.
“Giant and Glad planned to reveal their charade after they served dinner — which they did for the 6:30 p.m. group,” Eater wrote.
“But after negative reaction from those diners, Vincent changed the plan. He told his 8:30 p.m. guests about Glad before servers brought out the food.”
According to the Tribune, the diners were offered $300 for their participation and $1,000 more if their face was shown in the commercial. “Even with the offer of cash, some in the room were not pleased,” the newspaper wrote.
“People were not stoked about the reveal,” Vincent told the Tribune.
In a statement, restaurant spokeswoman Cat Taylor defended the food, which she called “fresh and (we hope) delicious, but above all, safe.”
“As restaurant professionals, we regularly use preservation techniques to prep our menu items. Our intent was to showcase these techniques in a unique way, which did involve an element of surprise,” Taylor said in the statement, according to the Block Club Chicago news site.
“We took care to choose menu items that were properly preserved and benefit from time like oil-packed peppers, marinated zucchini, and confit potatoes.”
While Sokolowski might have felt duped, some of his fellow Chicago food writers laughed off the fuss.
“People complaining about free food is peak Chicago food “media,” tweeted Peter Frost, a former food and beverage reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business.
Vincent, who has apologized for the evening, told the Tribune why he teamed up with Glad.
“I’m not going to cry poverty,” he told the newspaper. “But if (a company) says they’ll pay $10,000 to rent out your restaurant on a day that you’re typically closed, yeah, we are going to do that.”