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Thread: Rocco's $ide Dish (NY Post)

  1. #1
    The race is back! John's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    On the mat

    Rocco's $ide Dish (NY Post)


    Sun Aug 10, 3:11 AM ET

    Prime-time chef Rocco DiSpirito, the star of the hit reality show "The Restaurant," is using a string of lucrative sponsorships and free handouts to turn his culinary gamble into his own financial feeding frenzy as he makes a determined grab for fame.

    The 36-year-old restaurateur could end up pocketing nearly $2 million from the TV series and stands to earn millions more through his fast-rising new celebrity profile, industry sources say.

    Rocco DiSpirito collected a "talent fee" thought to be about 6 percent of the show's total budget, The Post has learned. Thatamountedto about $350,000 for the six-part series.

    He also clinched a lucrative advertising contract with one of the show's sponsors, American Express, signed deals for free loans of an SUV from Mitsubishi and a trendy Italian scooter from Vespa, has a cookbook due in October and is negotiating to launch Rocco-brand cookware and packaged food.

    With 7.8 million people watching last week's third episode of "The Restaurant" - giving NBC a clear win in the 10-11 p.m. Sunday time slot, according to Nielsen Media Research - the real reward for DiSpirito could come in the form of a future Hollywood career, whether his East Side restaurant survives or not.

    Rocco is not only relishing the attention; he seems hungry for more.

    "I kind of put my energy out there and hope things work out," he said. "It's always great when people talk about you. Everyone loves accolades. Everyone loves to be loved."

    And there appears to be a lot of love in the sweet deals DiSpirito did with those companies willing to back his idea of filming the creation and operation of a New York restaurant he named after himself - "Rocco's."

    The program was funded by three major sponsors, American Express, Mitsubishi and Coors beer. Each advertiser got one of six advertising slots on the hourlong show, while NBC sold the other three. The slots are worth about $200,000 a pop, according to the show's executive producer, Robert Riesenberg.

    DiSpirito looked after his backers in other ways, particularly through generous product placements as the cameras were rolling. He drove a Mitsubishi throughout filming, Coors trucks were filmed making deliveries to the East 22nd Street eatery, and American Express was the card of choice among some featured diners.

    "It was a bit like, 'Hey waiter, there's a commercial in my soup,' " one diner at the restaurant commented.

    While NBC isn't quite ready to plop DiSpirito into his own sitcom - as it did unsuccessfully with fellow chef Emeril two years ago - the new haute cuisine hunk isn't wasting any time prepping for the next deal.

    While he's currently signed with former Endeavor Agency agent Lon Rosen, DiSpirito revealed he's talking to other agents about deals that are being thrown at him - from television shows, to books, to "other things," he said.

    DiSpirito's Chicago-based branding agency, Antsnpants, is looking to launch a line of cookware and packaged foods by the end of the year.

    "This is all about brand Rocco," said Antsnpants partner Fred Siegel.

    NBC has been quick to promote what the network calls its newest TV star. DiSpirito has appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (news - Y! TV)" the Conan O'Brien (news - Y! TV) and Carson Daley late-night shows.

    But the chef's Hollywood style has peeved some of his peers, who say their profession has been sullied by DiSpirito's cavalier attitude to a serious business.

    "I'm embarrassed by it," said a well-placed insider with 25 years of experience in New York's restaurant scene. "It gives you the impression we're just here to take the money and run. We're trying to build a clientele. I suppose you could call them fans if you want, but that's very Hollywood."

    Limelight, though, is one of DiSpirito's specialties of the house. He was tagged as one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive."

    "Personally, I'd be concerned if I was portrayed that way," said Henry Meer, executive chef and owner of City Hall restaurant in TriBeCa and the Cub Room. "But chefs have different desires. Who would have thought Emeril would be Emeril with just one word, 'Bam!' "

    DiSpirito brushes aside his critics. "Right now, I see my primary responsibility is Rocco's," he said. "I don't want it to be a flash [in the pan]."

    "I think if you ask Emeril or Bobby [Flay] or Mario [Batali], or Ming [Tsai], whether or not TV is a helpful way to promote your product, they'll agree it is."

  2. #2
    Thanks for this post - says what Ive been feeling. I watched the show last nite and I dont see anything real about it - Its very contrived and edited to tell the story and I have no doubt that people are playing for the cameras and t hings are staged for dramatic effect, and that things are also edited out of sequence. I wouldnt want to work in that restaurant, but it will make him a bigger celeb and make him more $$ which is really the ultimate goal here less we forget. BUt the last episode which kind of portrayed him as a jerk and an a-hole is probably more to what his REAL personality is like. But for a chef, he was never cooking. And they probably cast people they knew would cause drama... But also you can just tell by the cameras that this is sooooo unreal and that so much is staged - the camera follows some things and ignores others and look at the editing. Plus the product placements are going overboard. I know that when I see too much of that, I tend to boycott the product. OK, we know she gets a Vespa -how many more people are going to say that... Rocco wasnt so nice - it was free to him. LOL And enough with the Coors Light boxes and bottles - we get that too ... And we get the American Express when the guy slowly turns the sign in the window to say open or closed and the camera focuses on the AE logo and sign. You think all these things happen in one take? Um no. Having worked on reality tv and daytime talk shows, I can tell you everything and I mean everything is doing for the story the producers want to tell and highlight.

    Reminds me of someone posting on a thread about Boy Meets Boy, that it 'looks like the producers dont really want James to find love'. I can assure you James romantic life is the least of t heir concerns as they were putting together this show. If he wants to find love, join a dating service - dont get exploited on national tv for your 15 min of fame

  3. #3
    FORT Fogey wendiness's Avatar
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    Aug 2003
    What Rocco needs to understand is that the popularity of his show isn't becaue he's sexy (he's not) or brilliant. It's because he's a jerk and the restaurant is falling apart all around him. If he has any notions of turning this into an acting career, forget it. People don't like you, Rocco! Cooking pans? Look, I'm not about to buy pots and pans based on "The Restaurant" and I don't think most people are either. The entertainment value of the show is in what a mess Rocco is making of it. Hardly the fodder for a sparkling future in the restaurant business or show business.

  4. #4


    August 12, 2003 -- TOPHER Goodman, the weeping waiter who walked out on Rocco Dispirito during Sunday's episode of "The Restaurant," says he was right to quit. "As soon as I first got [to Rocco's], I saw I was standing on what was a deeply sinking ship," Goodman told The Post yesterday.

    "No one was paying attention, no one was showing they had compassion for the staff, so why should I care?" he said.

    Topher is back waiting tables again at the restaurant at which he'd worked before getting a job at Rocco's - East of Eighth, at 23rd Street and 8th Avenue.

    And he has no regrets even now that the show is a hit - and he became a major character. "It could have been one of those 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone' scenarios - but it was smart to move on," he said.

    "I quit on a Monday night and the cameras were there until [the following] Saturday," said Goodman.

    "I could've stuck it out to gain camera time and further myself in the business, but . . . once I hit that moment of truth inside myself, I'm done."

    Much of Sunday's episode dealt with Goodman's vocal criticism of Dispirito's management style as things got chaotic at Rocco's, the downtown setting for "The Restaurant."

    Things got especially bad when Dispirito convinced ex-bartender Lola to come back as beverage manager - and then gave her his red Vespa motorcycle to lure her back.

    That was the final straw for Goodman, who promptly and tearfully quit - despite Dispirito's best efforts to persuade him otherwise.

    "I was kind of burned out," Goodman says "Under no circumstances was I going to stay at a place that was unhealthy for me.

    "To me, my own personal happiness was more important - show or no show," Goodman says.

    Well, maybe. While Goodman is back at East of Eighth, the trappings of (fleeting) fame have whet his appetite for more.

    "I'm trying to parlay what happened to me on TV into something else," he says. "I loved the experience of just being myself on camera, and I would honestly love more of an opportunity to share more of myself on TV."

    And Goodman says he bears no hard feelings toward Dispirito.

    "I hope the editing of the show doesn't make him seem resentful of me," he says. "I certainly had a great experience and I hope we both walked away having gained something.

    "I don't know what happened after I walked out the door, but I think Rocco learned from losing his favorite waiter."

    Star of "The Restaurant" hit with health violations

    AUGUST 11--Already saddled with whiny employees, lousy reviews, and comparisons to the Olive Garden, the New York eatery featured in NBC's "The Restaurant" was slapped with six health code violations following an inspection last week, The Smoking Gun has learned.

    Rocco's, chef Rocco DiSpirito's chaotic Italian-American joint, was cited on July 29 for the "evidence of live flies" in the kitchen prep area and for keeping two large metal spoons stored in a "container of greasy stagnant water." That's right, Rocco's was nailed for a greasy spoon violation. The restaurant was also cited for having three "moist wiping" cloths "soiled with old food particles and not stored in sanitizing solution." Another violation resulted from an "employee toilet facility" that was not equipped with the required "self-closing door."

    Below you'll find the notice of violation issued to Rocco's stoic manager Laurent Saillard by inspectors with New York City's Department of Health. A hearing on the six violations has been scheduled for October 22. On the positive side, despite repeated complaints from diners seen on "The Restaurant," Rocco's was not written up for serving cold food (eateries are often nailed for not maintaining hot food at or above 140 degrees Farenheit).

    According to State Liquor Authority records, DiSpirito owns 50 percent of Rocco's, which was launched with a $1.5 million investment and pays $36,499 monthly for its swanky Flatiron space. The restaurant's annual payroll approaches $2 million, according to the SLA documents.

  5. #5
    I wonder just how much time Rocco spends in the restaurant now that the camers are gone.

  6. #6
    This is such a great article. It almost gave me double vision. I could have sworn I saw it twice!

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