PR Innovations: Top Chefs Star in ‘Trading Places’

Today in truly interesting PR schemes: Eleven Madison Park and Alinea are two of the most esteemed restaurants in the country. Spending an evening (hell, even an abbreviated lunch hour) at either location is a true event for those among us fortunate enough to have the opportunity (we haven’t been so lucky, and now we’re sad). The chefs at these top kitchens also happen share both a friendship and a mutual respect. The problem? Eleven Madison Park is in Manhattan and Alinea is in Chicago.

The restaurants’ runners have found what may be the most innovative possible solution to this challenge: they’re trading faces. Or places.

For five nights this fall, Alinea chef Grant Achatz will be preparing his signature brand of Chicago cuisine for diners in Manhattan’s Flatiron District while Eleven Madison’s kitchen magician Daniel Humm will serve his trademark delicacies just off Lake Michigan.

The most interesting part of this idea? It first took shape in the form of a handshake agreement at a cocktail lounge event involving both parties—and the general managers of each restaurant acknowledge that they’ll almost certainly lose money on the deal. They’ve decided that it will ultimately be a worthwhile endeavor for one reason: It will gin up great press for both restaurants, and it will draw the attention of even those who might not otherwise take note.

So, PR pros: How often have you witnessed multiple clients come together for collaborative projects like this one? How does the potential for disaster balance the potential for a win-win equation? We feel like these sorts of arrangements probably work best when they spring from preexisting relationships, but we’d love some stories.