So last night, I'm watching the premier of Entourage on HBO. Which is to say, I had the premiere of Entourage playing on the TV while I was...I don't know. Eating a sandwich or reading a book or talking with my wife or something probably slightly more productive.
That blurry, shiny head? It's Stefan Richter from Top Chef
But then, some sixth sense for rapidly-fading (if not already completely faded) celebrity made me look up. And there, for about a half-second, doing an Aaron Sorkin-style walk-and-talk was Stefan Richter--the grumpy, token Euro who took the runner-up slot on Top Chef season 5. The guy had exactly five words of dialog: "How is everything," and "Thank you," spoken as he strode briskly past the table where E and his lady friend were sitting and pretending to eat lunch. But those five words got me thinking... Is it just me or does it seem like there have been an awful lot of cameos by actual real-world chefs lately on fictional TV shows?
Last night it was Entourage. Not too long ago, it was Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, David Chang, Wylie Dufresne and (I think) John Besh on Treme (I didn't see it because I don't watch the show, but plenty of people told me about it). I heard that Mario Batali has a cameo in some splatter/horror/food movie coming out soon and Paula Deen was in Elizabethtown. And on "reality" TV, chefs are everywhere.
And while I'm not sure whether the scene from Entourage was filmed in one of Richter's actual restaurants (he's operating two or three of them in and around L.A. these days), I did start putting together a list on my head of the best real restaurants used in the make believe world of TV and movies.
There's the Hitching Post, which featured heavily in the movie Sideways and, for a brief time, became a kind of weird nexus between the worlds of wine snobs and Paul Giamatti fans (which you wouldn't think would be a big intersection, but still...)
The diner from Pulp Fiction--known in the real world as the Hawthorne Grill--was put up for sale a while back and was recently demolished.
Johnie's was the place where Anthony Edwards first learned about the nuclear missiles in the way-better-than-remembered Miracle Mile. It's been closed to civilians since 2000, but gets rented out regularly to film crews and so has also been featured in flicks like Reservoir Dogs, American History X and The Big Lebowski--all of which just makes me like the place even more.
The Restaurant was never my favorite show on TV. As a matter of fact, I hated it with a rare and refined passion because, while claiming to show the real, behind-the-scenes world of restaurants and chefs, what it actually showed was nothing of the sort. In the moment, it was a ridiculous piece of crap filled with nothing but shrieking, fake tits, and excess, with Rocco DiSpirito running around like some kind of chimp with his nuts wired to a car battery, doing donuts on his stupid little Vespa and sticking his tongue down the throats of various C-list celebs. But in retrospect, The Restaurant can almost be looked at in a purely documentary light, showing not the way a real restaurant works, but the effects of insanity and hubris in the world of celebrity chefs, recorded at a time when both those elements more or less defined the landscape.
Dinner Rush? Great movie, provided you fast forward though all the stuff having to do with the mob and just focus on the food and kitchen scenes. The restaurant used for the filming of the movie is Gigino in Tribeca and, according to IMDB, is actually owned by Bob Giraldi, who directed the film.
So that's my quick, off-the-top-of-my-head list. Now it's your turn. Remember: we're looking for REAL places populated (at least for the time that the cameras were rolling) by imaginary people or REAL chefs putting in a little fictional face-time in front of the cameras .
You know, like the time Emeril had his own sitcom.