Restaurants have proven to be a fairly fertile ground for reality TV show creators, but are they a great way for restaurateurs and chefs to showcase their talents and win positive PR for their establishments?
On Wednesday, Eater reported that two of “America’s Next Great Restaurant” winner Jamawn Woods’ three Soul Daddy eateries have closed after a month, leaving him with one unit at the Mall of America in Minnesota and a scaled-down plan to focus on building the concept in one place before expanding. Celebrity chefs and restaurateurs Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia and Steve Ells chose Woods as the winner and were also investors in the eateries, built on Woods’ simple concept of updated soul food starring chicken and waffles.
The news came on the heels of NBC’s recent announcement that it the show’s first season would be its only one, with some industry watchers speculating that the show failed because its concept was relatively tame and not dramatic enough to bring hard-core reality fans back week after week. That probably won’t be an issue for “Famous Food,” VH1’s new restaurant reality show, which began taping this spring. The show’s seven stars include “Real Housewives of New Jersey” villain Danielle Staub, former “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka and reality star Heidi Montag, who will team up over 10 episodes to renovate the space and re-do the menu at a West Hollywood restaurant.
TV network TLC has announced yet another reality show that will center on restaurants and food, this one a makeover story titled “Mission Menu” that’s slated to air next year and will follow three international restaurateurs as they overhaul their businesses, with the help of a team of experts from Discovery Networks International.
Swipely’s managing editor Amanda MacArthur recently wrote a piece on how to get your restaurant on a reality show and, perhaps even more important, some things to consider before you start the process. Shows like Gordon Ramsay’s “Kitchen Nightmares” start by showing off the worst of the restaurant, which won’t show your establishment in its best light, so better to be sure that the renovated restaurant and revamped menu you’ll have at the end will be worth it.
MacArthur advises those who decide that the PR benefits outweigh the potential for bad buzz to try out for as many shows as possible, via casting call sites such as RealityWanted.com; be ready to answer a slew of questions; and go above and beyond to tell a compelling story – some eateries create YouTube videos.
Woods’ TV experience may not have turned out exactly as he planned, but it’s not likely to stop the next generation of hopeful chefs who see the venue as a way to get their talents noticed and their dreams funded. Culinary Institute of America grad Joseph Johnson has been cooking since age 7 and has spent the past couple of years trying out for food-focused reality shows, the Pocono Record reports. Tonight, he’ll get his chance with a segment on “Rocco’s Dinner Party,” Bravo’s new reality show staring celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito.
“Unless you get a review in The New York Times, there aren’t many avenues for exposure, not yet,” Johnson told the paper.
Have you ever tried out for a reality show? Tell us about it in the comments.