The First We Feast Food Zone is always a must-visit part of ComplexCon. Typically, the area gains tons of foot traffic just because of its variety of options and providing a break from the packed convention floor. But with Uber Eats serving as the Food Zone's official sponsor during ComplexCon Chicago, attendees were also able to experience their meals in completely unique ways. Throughout the weekend, hungry consumers were able to skip the line by ordering some of the best bites in the Windy City right through the Uber Eats app and pick up their food in the FWF Lounge, where diners could enjoy their meals and the ComplexCon vibes in a cool, communal atmosphere.
With 19 restaurants—including Harold’s Chicken, Chicago Taco Authority, Justice of Pies, Moon Palace, Seoul Taco, The Delta, Shake Shack, Paperboy, and more—participating in the activation, Uber Eats not only provided a plethora of tasty options but created the perfect opportunity for people to make and share memories while enjoying some amazing food. That philosophy extended past the convention floor to Uber Eats’ special audible dine-in experience, which brought a James Beard Award-winning chef and Grammy-winning producer together to put on a “show” for a select group of tastemakers and influencers during ComplexCon Chicago.
Atlanta producer Zaytoven and Chef Abe Conlon, owner of Chicago’s Fat Rice, were tasked with creating both the menu and soundtrack for the two-day dining experience celebrating the intersection of food and music. Having never met before, the seemingly worlds-apart personalities were more than up for the challenge of creating something mouth-watering and memorable.
“Connecting with somebody that, first of all, you don’t even know, to do something that you ain't never done before—that just sparks creativity,” Zaytoven beams. “I don’t know how to cook nothin’. I make cereal in the morning, you know what I mean? So it's always dope when somebody can really put meals together, man. So I was giving Chef Abe my ideas, he was coming back with his ideas and we put together something special.”
Through a series of group texts and phone calls, the pair mapped out how their partnership would come to life. Inspired by Zaytoven’s Southern roots, Chef Abe created a delectable array of food firsts and culinary creativity that he affectionately dubbed “Up From the Mud.” The name was born from their very first conversation. “When Zay and I first spoke, he said something about coming up from the mud, and that stuck with me,” Chef Abe explains. “Because no matter what you’re doing, it’s not easy—especially with music and with food.”
Similarly, Zaytoven fed off of Chef Abe’s creativity to craft a fluid playlist of chart toppers and deep cuts to set the mood for the five-course dining experience. “The menu that Abe gave me was more gritty, more hardcore, and more explosive to the taste buds, so it made me make a playlist that was very energetic,” Zaytoven explains. “When I sent him the initial playlist, he said it was perfect for the ideas he had in his mind and exactly what he thought it should sound and feel like. It was just a match made in heaven for real.”
Over the course of ComplexCon Chicago weekend, Uber Eats’ invite-only affair attracted the likes of Bobby Hundreds, Bun B, Lenny S., DeRay Mckesson, Reese LaFlare, First We Feast’s Chris Schonberger, and more to experience what Zaytoven and Chef Abe had cooked up for their senses. The menu, which by design played out like a living, breathing mixtape, featured crescendos of flavor and unique culinary couplets. One of the many standout items was a watermelon and seafood appetizer—featuring caviar, oysters, salmon, prawns, king crab, and tequila—that was paired with a champagne cocktail. Dubbed “Arrival Survival,” it served as the intro to the experience.
“When I asked Zay what was an uncommon or outlandish place where he shared a meal, he said, ‘I was on a yacht with Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and the Neptunes.’ I was like, ‘Whoa, that must have been a moment of arrival,’” says Chef Abe. “If you're on a boat with those people, there's definitely champagne, right? That's why we've got that really nice high-end stuff [on the menu]. We're not doing normal stuff that other people do. And, I was like, man, there's probably caviar, while you're doing shots of tequila.”
Another notable dish was the fried green tomatoes with andouille and crawfish sausage in an okra, corn, and sweet onion stew. But the intimate dining experience wasn’t all about fancy fare, as Chef Abe balanced the menu out with courses that called back to simpler times as well. Course 4 was “School Boy Lunch,” which included a parmesan and sheep’s milk cheese wafer with a sliced apple and powdered peanut butter served in a brown paper bag and an adult sake “juice box” on the side.
While the menu was essentially mirrored on both days of ComplexCon Chicago, the lucky diners on Sunday got an extra-special treat courtesy of The Doughnut Society, who capped off the final day of the experience with an opulent dessert option. Servers surprised the room with a decadent $500 donut topped with caviar, gold flakes, truffles, and drizzled in a 100-year-old Aceto balsamic vinegar. At the end of the weekend, Uber Eats created more than a few magical food moments attendees won't soon forget and the audible dining experience was just another prime example of how two creatives can turn something commonplace like eating with friends into something completely new and exciting.
“It was a pleasure working with Zaytoven on this because I always look to music in my restaurant as a way to maintain a vibe,” Chef Abe says. “You're never really recreating the wheel. You're always just kind of taking what other people have done, and working and changing it to become essentially your own, and to speak your volume.”