A pair of culinary maestros are helping reintroduce Coca-Cola as the perfect complement to any plate – from street food, to ethnic favorites, to artisinal entrees.
In a new campaign targeting gastronomy aficionados and novice foodies alike, celebrity chefs Aarón Sánchez and Roblé Ali highlight the perfect pairing of Coca-Cola and the modern meal experience.
The campaign aims fuses fans' love affair with food and the modern meal experience – from food halls to food trucks. “Serve with a Coca-Cola” kicks off with a documentary-style TV commercial airing in English and Spanish. In “Latin Food Feud,” Chef Sanchez and up-and-coming food truck owners, food bloggers and everyday foodies debate the most delicious ways to prepare Latin dishes paired with an ice-cold delicious Coke. The spot welcomes people into bustling kitchens, restaurant dining rooms, legendary local restaurants and family households, highlighting the diversity of the nation’s people and its food culture.
"It’s as much about my life experiences as it is about my kitchen experiences," Chef Aarón said. "It embodies everything I’ve ever done professionally and everything I’ve ever done personally. And Coca-Cola is what brought them both together so beautifully."
Americas’ love affair with food is experiencing a renaissance, according to Jeanine Lewis, Coca-Cola brand director, Coca-Cola North America. “And one of the primary reasons why younger generations are so passionate about food," she added, "is because of the genuine social connectedness and social currency dining experiences foster.”
Millennials, roughly half of whom describe themselves as foodies, are especially passionate about food – and constantly express their opinions about the best dishes, restaurants and more on social media.
“And although many may disagree about what the best food is, we can all agree on one thing: Coca-Cola goes best with it,” Lewis adds.
Coca-Cola partnered with the two popular chefs and TV personalities because both are highly respected among Millennials, especially multicultural Millennials. “Aarón has a sophisticated style and specializes in Latin food, whereas Roblé has an approachable, youthful style that overlaps with pop food culture,” Lewis adds.
The campaign also features digital video, print, radio and outdoor advertising and experiential activations. Coca-Cola will promote the program throughout the year at festivals and events across the country, starting in February at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami Beach, where Chefs Aarón and Roblé showcased their culinary skills at The Coca-Cola Kitchen. Fans also enjoyed a taste of the campaign at the Coca-Cola Music concert during the March Madness Music Festival, held in conjunction with the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Phoenix. And most recently, in partnership with Uber, pop-up dinners were held in Atlanta and in New Orleans, where Chef Aarón surprised attendees at the latter with a special dinner and drinks at his restaurant Johnny Sánchez.
We caught up with both chefs recently and asked them to dish about their favorite foods to pair with Coca-Cola, why the beverage tastes so great with any meal, and much more. Take a look:
What’s your earliest memory of enjoying Coca-Cola with food?
Aarón: I’m bicultural, so I grew up spending my summers in El Paso, Texas, and Mexico where my family is from, and the rest of the year in New York City. I have vivid memories of going to my grandma’s house in El Paso on Saturdays and eating homestyle Mexican food, usually enchiladas, with an ice-cold Coke. There was something about how the taste of Coke played with the intensity of chopped raw onion and the spiciness of the chiles.
Roblé: Sitting on the steps of my grandparents’ house in Poughkeepsie, New York, listening to a Mets game on the radio and eating bologna-and-cheese sandwiches with a Coke. Those were the good-old days! I still enjoy a good bologna and cheese sandwich, but now I get a little chef-y and use mortadella and maybe some gruyere. But the Coke is of course still there.
What about the flavor profile of Coca-Cola pairs so well with so many different foods?
Aarón: The worst thing you can do is have a beverage that’s weak in flavor and overshadowed by the food, or vice versa. Coca-Cola has the perfect texture and mouthfeel. It doesn’t dominate what you’re eating. It wakes everything up. And it can stand up to any dish.
Roblé: It’s a great palate cleanser. It’s sweet and maybe a little sour. It balances out big flavors and can hold its own with any food. It’s like a great rapper rapping over a great beat. It just fits. I also like to say it’s a breath. A relief. Imagine you’re a whale in the ocean, and you have to come up for air before diving back down. When you’re eating a meal, a sip of Coke is like that. It’s that little bit of tanginess, it’s the sweetness and it's the effervescence… the bubbles. It’s like you’re baptizing your mouth with every sip. It’s like a great dance partner… it rocks well. Sometimes when I’m eating, I love the dish but I’m actually looking forward to my next sip of Coke more than my next bite.
What are your favorite dishes to pair with a Coca-Cola?
Roblé: A steak with a really nice char. Anything Mexican. Chinese food… are you kidding me? General Tso’s chicken and a Coke are the perfect pairing. Both are caramel-y and a little sour. Pad Thai. Hot dogs. A warm pretzel. The only meal I don’t drink Coke with is breakfast. The better the food, the better the experience. But you know the Coca-Cola will always be good.
Aarón: I’ll give you two examples. One is more of a complex, “chef-ier” dish, and another is one anyone can make at home. To me, mole speaks volumes to the versatility of Coca-Cola. I think of Coke as a seasoning. I’m constantly thinking about acidity, texture and balance… and Coca-Cola rounds everything out and emphasizes the inherent flavor of whatever you’re eating. And that, for me, is extremely important. Mole Poblano is a traditional and very recognized Mexican dish. It’s not spicy at all and has bright overtones of chocolate and guajillo chiles. It’s bright and brusky and goes great with chicken. A second dish that’s a bit more rudimentary is my grandma’s homestyle pork and beef meatballs, cooked in a soft tomato sauce and flavored with chipotle, mint and simple seasoning, with some salty, sharp cotija cheese on top and paired with a Coca-Cola. That’s just gold.
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