Fresh off his groundbreaking win in “Top Chef,” Season 74, celebrity chef Grant Stone issued a press release this morning announcing the foundation of a new Chicago-based underground eating club. Named after the “grand architecture and aspirations of this wonderful city,” Erect will be a members-only eating club, catering only a select, worthy demographic and a small lottery of lucky winners who win tickets at the nightly table.
Each day the exclusive staff at Erect will create only one meal — thirty-eight courses for exactly one person. Erect’s exclusive dining room has space for only one person, making the chef to diner ratio an unprecedented 48:1. The diner will eat in a pitch-black sensory deprivation chamber, focusing solely on the “explosive bouquets of flavors, textures and vanities proffered by Erect’s unparalleled meals.”
Tickets, which run $750 per meal, will be offered to exclusive members of the foodie underground and on a limited basis to Web customers. For a chance to win online, prospective clients need to sign up precisely after tickets go on sale at a random time each week. Tickets typically sell out after 20-30 seconds, so it’s best to leave the browser window open 24/7 and voraciously mash the reload button until their release.
The first fifty contestants then take an SAT-style test combining food pop culture, celebrity chefs and multi variable calculus to determine their aptitude in the field. The top five remaining candidates will finally be matched tête-a-tête “Top Chef”-style trivia quiz gauging a wide spectrum of foodie knowledge such as the number of calories in an unladen African Swallow (braised) versus a European Swallow (boiled). That winner gets the chance to dine in the exclusive Erect dining room.Wicker Park resident Lian Sze was among the first Erect fans to make it into the final rounds of tests due to her innate ability to integrate imaginary numbers. A Ph.D. candidate in non-linear algebra, Ms. Sze was thrilled at the opportunity to participate saying, “The simple pleasure of sharing the same city block with Chef Stone makes my skin tingle. I can feel people looking at me differently now. I feel so validated.”
Underground eating clubs, for their part, have been growing steadily since they started appearing in the mainstream in the late ’90s. With Erect, the main difference is in the celebrity support. Whether Chef Stone will be able to create a unique experience beyond the traditional supper club is the real buzz among the foodie underground. Mike Lee, the creative and culinary mind behind the wildly popular Studiofeast series in New York thinks that he’s destined to fail because there simply aren’t any truly new ideas anymore. “What Stone is thinking of doing is basically making a giant steaming pile of bad idea meatloaf out of every discarded creative pitch that’s ever been heard at the Food Network and Bravo,” Lee told Gadling.
Elaborating, Lee said that he felt that Stone’s “47 wrongs make a one right” strategy just wouldn’t work today and that he should try and come back to Earth with his approach. “The greatest trick an ‘underground’ chef ever played was making people believe he didn’t exist. That’s why at Studiofeast I’m pivoting and just making beef stroganoff for people on their couches. It’s so far to the right of the normal chart that it’ll warp back to the other side and become the weirdest thing anyone has ever done. I’m willing to bet my sanitary inspection grade on it…oh wait, lolz!”
Regardless of the dialogue, the proof will be in Erect’s reviews. Scheduled for an opening this evening, April Fools’ Day, feedback is expected later this week.