Virginia B. Wood gives The Restaurant a room-temperature review, and plates up the latest local news in this week's "Food-o-File."
After watching the first two segments of NBC's new reality series set in a New York City restaurant run by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito, I've come to the conclusion that there's a world of difference between having a good publicist and running a good restaurant. The television show has done an admirable job of capturing the frenetic pace of a big-time restaurant opening, and the language in the kitchen is appropriately raw enough to require repeated bleeping. However, in the second segment, the camera was also catching several things that the celebrity chef/owner appeared to miss. While DiSpirito was doing the chef's dining-room strut in his pristine whites, customers were getting food with which they were not satisfied, service was breaking down all over the dining room, an employee was seriously hurt and told by the rude general manager that it was "tough, go home." To his credit, the chef/owner did finally send the injured (and uninsured) employee to the hospital in a cab, but the previews of next week's episode gave broad hints of a staff mutiny. After watching the second episode, I had a conversation with a former Austin pastry chef who had spent the previous week in New York, catching Letterman and eating out around the city. She and her companion went to Rocco's, the eatery featured in the television series, out of curiosity. She reports that it's still very much a "see and be seen" kind of scene, with gossip columnist Cindy Adams at a nearby table raving to DiSpirito about how fabulous everything was while rancid olive oil was served to several customers for dipping with their bread. According to my friend, the food at Rocco's was unremarkable and very expensive. DiSpirito obviously has a great publicist. If you're interested in watching something about a restaurant where love is lavished on the food, rent Big Night and enjoy a bowl of risotto. And if you want to see the truest movie ever made about how restaurants operate, check out Dinner Rush.
Wine & Food Festival News
It turns out the folks from Saveur magazine were so pleased with their first experience with the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, they've signed on for five more years as the annual spring event's national media partner. According to Pam Blanton, festival media representative, the deal was made recently in a weeklong series of meetings in New York. Another result of those meetings was the addition of three new members to the festival's board of directors: New York restaurateurs Drew Nieporent and Danny Meyer and celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Nieporent is the principal owner of the Myriad Restaurant Group and a frequent visitor to the festival in years past. Meyer operates both Union Square Cafe and a New York barbecue joint called Blue Smoke and is passionate about Central Texas barbecue. Avid watchers of the Food Network will recognize Flay from his various cooking shows. New components now under consideration for the 2004 festival are all-day Central Texas barbecue bus tours, as well as a farm-to-table event matching area produce growers with local restaurants proposed for the Barr Mansion.
Driskill Hotel pastry chef Jimmy McFarland and his partner, Olivia, welcomed baby boy Nicholas into their lives last week. All those years of baker's hours should be good training for the no-sleep regimen that comes with newborns. Aquarelle chef/co-owner Terry Wilson called to say that the restaurant will be closed Aug. 4-18 in anticipation of the arrival of her new baby (and first boy) who was due on July 31. After all these years of waiting for a boy, what's a few more days?