Celebrity-owned restaurants are like William Shatner albums: most seem to exist primarily as punchlines, or at least to make everyone else feel better about themselves. For every Nobu (Robert DeNiro) or Spotted Pig (Bono, Jay-Z, Michael Stipe, et al.), there’s a Nyla (Britney Spears), Planet Hollywood (multiple offenders), or Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. So a recent report that a woman is suing Eva Longoria’s Beso for $25,000 after slipping on the restaurant’s floor isn’t news so much as a meeting of lowered expectations. You didn’t expect the food to make headlines, did you?
As the line between celebrities and celebrity chefs has become ever more blurred, there’s likewise little distinction between the flash of, say, Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club and the latest venture from any member of the Food Network confederacy. In a recent Metromix celebrity roundup, for example, restaurants from Michael Symon, Mario Batali, and Top Chef winner Kevin Gillespie were included alongside Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo and Jimmy Buffett’s Cheeseburger in Paradise.
And just as no one is expecting Jimmy Buffett or Sammy Hagar to be flipping burgers (at least not if there’s a benevolent god), no reasonable person thinks Batali or Symon will actually show up in their chef’s whites, either. It’s possible that we’ve reached the point where it’s no more embarrassing for an actor or musician to call themselves a restaurateur than it is for certain chefs to do so. Say what you will about Sammy Hagar’s cooking skills, he’s never pulled a Todd English. Even Eva Longoria’s contested $25,000 looks like spare change compared to the class-action lawsuit Del Posto workers have leveled against Batali and Co. (Also: Hitler, anyone?)
True, Beso is never going to win the favor of the Michelin Guide or get four stars from the New York Times, as Del Posto did, and not all celebrity chefs are created equal: It’s unlikely that Thomas Keller or Grant Achatz will ever embarrass themselves, at least not on national television. But until chefs stop signing up to be dropped out of helicopters in the name of culinary enlightenment, or posing for pictures like this, then perhaps it’s best not to judge their Hollywood counterparts too harshly.