2003_7_johncharles.jpgBlatant product placements be damned, Gothamist is hooked on The Restaurant, as it feeds into our NY food obsessions. The second episode revolved around both the "soft" and official opening nights of Rocco's, with just the right amount of drama (fire; mix of hardworking and lazy servers; annoying customers), Mama, and Rocco looking cute. And indeed, the ratings improved this past Sunday, winning its timeslot for the night.

As luck would have it, we found out that a very good friend's cousin was no-nonsense, uber capable kitchen manager John. And he was gracious enough to answer a few of Gothamist's questions about the cook's life, reality TV, and NY restaurants. This is what we learned:

- In the first episode, John tells Rocco at the job interview/audition that he's been a badass his whole life, but is ready for a change. When Gothamist asked "How much of a badass were you?", John just laughed and said, "Pretty bad...pretty bad."
- Rocco is a great guy: Hard-working and intense, has a great team of people behind his restaurants.
- A few restaurants (other than Rocco's) that John likes: Park Avalon and Beppe (both neighborhood joints), Blue Ribbon, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Esca, and Vong
- He actually asked that the cameras not film him, so he was surprised he was featured as much as he has been. Gothamist guesses that Mark Burnett's crack team knows dramatic potential when they see it.
- John has worked in restaurants for 15-20 years, has worked as a chef, but as Rocco's kitchen manager, he deals with the finances as well as ordering all the food and supplies. (Gothamist will be demanding to watch him in action at the Union Square Greenmarket some day soon.)
- And Mama is in there the kitchen at 7AM making meatballs. Ah, the Italian mother - anything for her child.

Gothamist's coverage of the Restaurant: Reviews of the food, the premiere of the show, early buzz, and the basic premise.