The Golden Ticket: Next Restaurant, the $3,000 Meal

After anxiously awaiting, no stalking the Next website, facebook page and twitter for hints at opening dates, menus or any sneak peak for almost a year now, when master chef Grant Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas of Alinea fame announced last week on his social networks that tickets for the highly anticipated Next Restaurant (seasonal menus from different countries- past, present and future) would be released 500 at a time per hour in the order you signed up for the notification list (now closed to the public), foodies were sent into what can be described as nothing less than a complete frenzy. With close to 19,000 on the pre-order list, and no set date or time of when sales would begin, the chaos began as people obsessively refreshed their email servers waiting for the magical message inviting you to request a password.

Sheer Madness

With their odd ticketing system only working in Firefox and Chrome, IE users were left in the dust. Still others didn’t get the much anticipated email at all. And servers crashed completely from being so overloaded. When my email never came the first day and rumors of tickets all being swooped up flying, I took matters into my own hands, requesting a password incessantly on the site until one finally came in the middle of the night. With ticket sales only open from 10 am through 7 pm, I painstakingly waited until 10 am. People had literally been posting all week on the Facebook wall asking if they could go to the bathroom and if they could move from their screens for fear of missing the window of opportunity. One even claimed to be suicidal. It was pretty comedic. I wasn’t that bad, but I did have a nightmare I missed the time slot much like the childhood bad dream of sleeping through an exam and panicked- no joke. I was obsessed.

Long story short and A LOT of refreshes later, success. Two tables scored, one for me, one for my boss, although there was momentary fear when they sold out within the first two minutes, thanks to my mother taking too long to decide about dates. I had been threatened to be fired over this-failure was not an option. Thankfully though, more tickets were being leaked slowly throughout the day.

The Aftermath

After it’s over, you are left with a somewhat unsettling feeling that you now have $1300 in credit card charges for two dinners I won’t get to enjoy until three months now. It is a strange way to dine, and you’re so crazed with trying to get a table you don’t have time to look at the prices or really process the magnitude of what is going on (they’re on a sliding scale based on the day/time you choose, $65-150 per person excluding drink pairing options).

And with only 3,000 out of the 19,000 on the list even having passwords, there is a hot black market for dinner tickets. $3,000 is the going rate for the much coveted chef’s table and 2-4 person tables for upwards of $1,000 each. Almost makes you forget the Bulls are in the playoffs. Oh wait, these are more in demand. Don’t mess with Chicagoans and their food.

To put it in perspective, for $3,000, you could dine at Alinea comfortably with wine pairings four times. Or, as one ironic facebook groupie stated, fly to Paris twice.

Helpful Ticketing Tips

-Save your credit card info the night before- this is a must or you will lose your spot while you type.
-Don’t think, just click. If you see an open date, at least 3,000 other people do too and the first to finish the process wins. Buy whatever’s available and then trade.
-Know if you want the wine pairings beforehand. Thinking is literally not an option
-The real trick: when you are trying to get in, do not just refresh the page that says It’s the page with the that has the calendar, reenter it manually if you have to.
-Stalk their facebook fan page. Seriously, Nick tells you exactly when tickets are being released, there are a few extra seats per night and they are excellent at providing personal updates.

Cheers to hoping Paris 1906 lives up to expectations and that the next series Bangkok is even crazier.