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July 30th, 2003 Caryn B. Brooks | z-Miss Dish
 

Feeding Tube

     
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ROCCO DISPIRITO: Coors Light's bitch, hottie-gene rich.
GENTLE READERS,
Is the new reality show The Restaurant, served Sunday nights on NBC, anything like the real thing? You've got the hottie chef. The barky money-man. The actor-waiters.The antisocial kitchen staff. The obnoxious product placement.

For even casual readers of the Anthony Bourdain oeuvre, it sure seems like it. But the only ones who would know definitively are restaurant people. And restaurant people wouldn't watch a show like that. Or would they?

It's hard to imagine these folks spending rare free time (Sunday night is a restaurateur's Saturday night) taking in a pantomime of their everyday life. But when Miss Dish called a bunch of industry types, every single one had watched it. And each had a wholly different take on it. Which makes you believe that at the end of the day, as fake as The Restaurant seems, it may well be completely real.

To wit, the scenes showing Rocco DiSpirito--Chef Boyhottie in the flesh--hiring people based solely on the power of their personalities rather than experience rang true with Bluehour's Bruce Carey. "I related to that," he says. "That's totally how I do it." Zinc Bistrot's Houston Striggow sees it differently. "Right--like we don't do reference checks," he says, incredulously.

All agreed that the artificially imposed timeline for the restaurant to open (seven weeks!) was more fake than krab. "Nobody opens a restaurant in that amount of time," says Lisa Schroeder of Mother's.

John Connell Maribona
of Ca–ita and Pambiche says he had a hard time connecting to the show because of the scale of Rocco's operation.
"I couldn't sit through it," he says. "I'm the guy painting and putting up sheet rock before my restaurant opens." Connell Maribona says, "I think this same idea would make a nice satirical movie."

Apart from doubting the timeline, Schroeder is a fan of the series. "I didn't want to like the show," she says. "Rocco's so handsome--screw him! But I thought they did a good job." That still doesn't mean she thinks it's realistic, though: "It's a pretty boy who opens a pretty restaurant in a pretty city with pretty servers--it's a fantasy."

Some fantasies work. "Rocco is a fox," says Carey. (He declined to declare him America's sexiest chef without bestowing the honor equally on his two chefs, Kenny Giambalvo and Jon Beeaker.)

Connell Maribona says the show does give the restaurant industry some credibility, and he thinks it will get more interesting when they start showing the true acting ability of servers that he's witnessed during his years in the business. "Customers will say, 'I want this, I want that,' and waiters give it to them, but then make fun of them to other staff members." Still, he thinks showing the gritty side of the restaurant world could "make regular people who go out treat us more humanely and give us some dignity."

Striggow thinks one downside of the show is that it may encourage amateurs to jump into the restaurant business. These dabblers adversely affect the industry and are the reason why it's got such a high failure rate. "It hurts us," Striggow says. "It makes banks skeptical of us, and the trickle-down costs of failed business reach the rest of us."

 
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