LABJ FORUM - Hot Dish

Rocco's on 22nd in New York has only been in business for five episodes, but already there have been injured waiters, bloodied cooks, bickering hostesses and a fire in the kitchen. With drama boiling over, NBC's new reality show "The Restaurant" has cooked up a tasty 8.4 million viewers. So the Business Journal asks:

Is the restaurant business really like this?

Sean Ryan
Instructor,
Culinary Arts Department
Bistro 31, Art Institute of California

The show is accurate to an extent. The work they do to facilitate the restaurant was actually done, but it was sexed up with some absurdities for the camera. In terms of the interaction of the employees, you'll find more negative stuff between the front and back of the restaurant. Instead, on the show, they're pitting the front against the front. The guys and girls in the back are shown as the stellar ones. It is fun, though. I'm enjoying it thoroughly. It is a blast to watch and the stress levels they have are so accurate.



Giuseppe Mollica
Maitre'd
Valentino

It's realistic to a certain degree. I would say it's 80 percent real and 20 percent not. It shows you the idea behind opening a restaurant and why so many people want to do it. It's good insider information. All restaurants open exactly the same way. But there are things that would never happen. For example, on the second night of the opening, the customer wanted some red wine. There was no red wine in the house and the customer gave the waiter his credit card to buy a bottle. The waiter ended up looking for a bottle of wine. A waiter serves more than one table. He could never abandon the tables. It could only happen on a TV show.



Gerri Gilliland
Owner and Chef
Lula and Finn McCool's

It's definitely very much like that. Things on fire? That happens. Waiters bitching and moaning? That happens. Customers sending back the food happens too. I only wish I had written down all my stories so I could have done it. I own four restaurants and I know what's it's like.



Matthew Pasco
Culinary Arts Student
Bistro 31, Art Institute of California

It is very realistic. The only thing is, they make the three-star chef look kind of bad, like he isn't making any progress. I know he's better than that. Sometimes they make situations and conflicts, but it's just for TV. But it is very real because opening a restaurant, well, it is kind of hell and chaos. Sometimes we joke around about the show in the kitchen, but a lot of us don't get time to see it because we're busy working.



Clinton Nuyda
Executive Chef
Bistro Laramie

For the most part, yes. In terms of high pressure, the intensity and the hectic environment, it's apparent in the industry. It's a bit more glamorized than it should be on the show. It gives the wrong idea to certain people that are in the industry."



Michael Hawkins
Partner
Green Street Restaurants

Parts of it are and parts of it aren't. The opening of the restaurant figuring out what day to open was realistic. The unreal part was that there was a deadline to open. That's insane. They had a fire, the staff wasn't trained, and there were paper plates. In real life, we don't do that. It's a very, very hard business because there's a thousand things that can go right and a thousand things that can go wrong and it can all happen at the same time. For 99 percent of us, the celebrity thing is just not real. We have celebrities come into our restaurant, and we just go about our business. And that's why they come in.

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