The Restaurant Business Goes Hollywood

By: Justin Chan

From time to time, reputable chefs will find themselves on television and sharing their recipes with viewers across the country. In certain instances, these chefs are lucky enough to land their own shows on the Food Network or appear in various television food challenges, thus making them celebrity chefs. Those who regularly watch food shows, for example, can probably count the number of times they have seen Bobby Flay, Paula Deen or Anthony Bourdain on a typical day. In an age where the media controls how we view the world, such chefs have helped turned food into an important part of pop culture. Food has become increasingly commercialized, as more and more chefs find themselves cooking on stage and discussing homemade recipes with those unfamiliar with different kinds of cuisines.

But all of that is nothing new. Chefs have appeared on television for quite a long time, and the entertainment industry has generally welcomed aspiring celebrity cooks with open arms. For some chefs, the restaurant business and the Hollywood glamour have intertwined. They have grown accustomed to dealing with public relations agencies on a daily basis and talking to network executives. In some cases, they might be lucky enough to get a fellow celebrity to lend a hand in starting up a new restaurant or participate in a food-related event. In fact, veteran Hollywood figures are gradually staking their place in the food-related ventures, thanks largely to the growing appeal of the restaurant business.

Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav is no exception to the trend. According to the Los Angeles Times, the rapper turned reality television star opened the House of Flavor Restaurant in Las Vegas last week. The menu reportedly consists of tons of fried chicken along with Flav's personally designed dishes. Unlike many celebrities who have entered the food business, however, Flav has some credible experience in the culinary world. In the late 1970s, he earned a culinary arts degree. He opened Flav's Fried Chicken in Iowa to little success last year and was forced to shut it down after four months. The Times also reported that Kiss bassist Gene Simmons will open up a restaurant in El Segundo next month. The rocker has teamed up with restaurateur Michael Zislis and concert promoter Dave Furano to launch a business called Rock & Brews.

Flav and Simmons are just two on the long list of celebrities that have shown interest in the restaurant business. Actor Robert De Niro has been a long time veteran in the restaurant world since he partnered with Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa to open Nobu in Tribeca in 1994. The restaurant's success led to the opening of 25 other chains around the world. De Niro also opened Tribeca Grill, a Mediterranean-themed business, and Locanda Verde, an Italian restaurant, in the neighborhood. Actress Sandra Bullock similarly opened several eateries in Texas. In 2006, she opened Bess, a bistro based in Austin, and later opened Walton's, a deli and coffee shop, across the street. Comedian Ashton Kutcher, like his Hollywood colleagues, has been tied to a number of restaurants owned by the Dolce Restaurants and Entertainment Group as well.

Although several celebrities have had trouble applying their success in the entertainment industry to the restaurant business, it has not stopped them from actively pursuing food-related ventures. With the economy looking up and with this year's movie blockbusters certain to draw in some major profit, we can expect more celebrities to invest some of their money into opening restaurants!

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