Celebrity TV chef sued by investors
Wednesday, February 11, 2004 Posted: 11:17 AM EST (1617 GMT)
NEW YORK (AP) -- Celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito is in a legal food fight with the people who say they financed his television restaurant and who are accusing him of mismanaging the eatery, which they say has lost more than a half million dollars.
A group called China Grill Management says in court papers that it put up more than $3 million so DiSpirito could open Rocco's on 22nd Street, an Italian restaurant that was the site of NBC's reality series "The Restaurant."
The show, which ran last summer, followed the 36-year-old chef and his staff through the opening and operation of a Manhattan restaurant. It's expected to begin a second limited run this May or June.
The court papers say that with DiSpirito in charge, the management group expected the restaurant "would be a critical and financial success as a result of DiSpirito's reputation, purported skills and personal commitment."
Instead, the investors say, "The quality of the food and service has been widely criticized" at Rocco's on 22nd Street and the restaurant "has yet to make a profit" -- losing "in excess of $600,000."
The investors, who sued in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, want a judgment that they alone own the restaurant. They also seek unspecified money damages.
The investors' lawyer, Laurance Kaiser, refused to comment on the suit Tuesday.
DiSpirito said he chose the wrong business partners and expressed confidence that any claims against him would be shown to be meritless. He said the restaurant "is a success because of my vision and hard work."
The group's court papers say DiSpirito spent insufficient time and effort on the food and service at the restaurant while "garnering significant media attention."
The investors' court papers, filed late Monday, also say they believe DiSpirito has received large sums of money for appearing on the show and in advertising related to the show.