On April 13, a group of 30 Uber riders and their plus-ones hopped into Ubers and made their ways to one of two mystery locations for surprise dining experiences.

Earlier that day in Atlanta and New Orleans, Uber VIPs had received notice about pop-up dinners in their respective cities to which they could request a ride. One meal would be prepared by New Orleans’ Chef Aarón Sánchez and another by Atlanta’s Chef Kevin Gillespie – both of whom draw culinary inspiration from the flavors of Coca-Cola. The Uber VIPs knew little more than that when they accepted the surprise invitation at no cost to them.

They arrived in their Ubers as curious and hungry strangers and left as friends, happily satisfied from their Coca-Cola inspired meals.

A Complex Flavor

For Gillespie, a James Beard-nominated Top Chef "fan favorite” who grew up drinking Coca-Cola with roadside barbeque, pairing food with Coke just makes sense.

“A lot of the flavors you pick up in Coke are savory flavors that naturally transition to food. There’s a harmony between it as a beverage and any food you’re having,” he explains. “It’s one of the most complex flavor profiles of all time.”

Gillespie has spent more hours than he knows in his kitchen trying to detect the flavors that comprise the drink. While he still hasn’t identified exactly what makes Coca-Cola taste like Coca-Cola he has been able to emulate the flavors through his menu design.

For his Uber VIP diners, Gillespie crafted a pickled beet and charred broccoli salad to do just that. “The smoky bitter flavor from the broccoli really contrasts the sweet flavor from the beets,” he reflects. “And that’s the flavor profile you get out of Coca-Cola.”

By serving the dish with Coca-Cola, those flavors come to life.

In other dishes, Gillespie uses the drink as a core ingredient. His second course featured a meal for which he has become famous – a Coca-Cola braised short rib.

Meanwhile in New Orleans, television’s Chopped star Sánchez paired ceviche and tostadas with Coca-Cola, alongside a Coca-Cola pork carnitas entrée, finishing the meal with Coca-Cola and dulce de leche ice cream floats.

Sánchez, who grew up sharing ice-cold Coca-Cola with his grandmother while she prepared family meals, believes that “no matter where the dish comes from, it’s sure to pair well with a refreshing Coke.”

Through such pairings, diners in Atlanta and New Orleans were able to experience a familiar beverage in refreshingly new ways, sipping Coca-Colas and Coca-Cola cocktails between bites.

More than a Meal

More than complementary in flavor, Coca-Cola and the food courses it inspired were complementary in spirit.  

“We are in the happiness business,” Sánchez says. “I’m proud to be partnering with an iconic brand like Coca-Cola – a brand that specializes in making memories by bringing friends and families together.”

Gillespie echoes this sentiment. “Coke and food share a similar ethos,” he says. “Coca-Cola was designed to enliven people. And that’s the purpose of food. The journey of food and the reason people dine is so that their day is a little better than when they got there.”

“A meal tells a story,” he continues, “and what you serve alongside it enhances that story.” Coca-Cola takes those stories and flavors “to the next level.”

Jeanine Lewis, Brand Director for Coca-Cola, believes the Coca-Cola story is one of community. She says, “At the core of the Coca-Cola brand identity is the idea of togetherness. Since the beginning of time, people have come together over the sharing of meals.”

She continues, “We are proud to have a brand that consumers prefer to be a part of those special moments between family and friends.”

Thurman Williams, Senior Director of Business Development for Coca-Cola North America eCommerce, says, “Uber was an ideal partner in facilitating such moments, transporting diners to their shared experience.”

He concludes, “Both Uber and Coca-Cola are all about bringing people together. It's the wonderful aspect of creating moments together that are either planned or highly impulsive but deliver on what matters most – the people.”