Most celebrities have an intimate understanding of restaurants – and not just because they can afford to indulge their tastebuds at the most decadent eateries around the world. Before they were raking in the millions, many of them worked as waiters waiting for their big break.
“You feel like you know everything once you’ve been a waitress,” Sandra Bullock, a former server, once said. But who knew so many stars, like Bullock, would be inspired to return to their humble beginnings? Indeed, a number of celebrities have added “restaurateur” to their resumes. And many of them have the same appetite for the craft as they do for their more glamorous jobs.
Danny DeVito - DeVito South Beach
For his first venture into the culinary world, Danny Devito partnered with renowned restaurateur David Manero and entrepreneur Michael Brauser to open a traditional Italian chophouse Miami’s hotspot – Ocean Drive. The décor was inspired by the colours of the Italian flag, with lipstick-red Venetian chandeliers, pearly white oversized booths and avocado-green walls, plus dark fig wood shutters and wood plank floors. Check out the outdoor patio with oversized wing chairs and airy cabanas, which offer privacy with the drop of a drape. Savour the signature Kobe Flight: Devito’s Global Wagyu Trio featuring steak from Japan, Australia and the United States.
Eva Longoria – Beso
Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria teamed up with her pal, chef Todd English, and restaurateurs JT Torregiani and Jonas Lowrance to create Beso (Spanish for “kiss”), serving Mediterranean cuisine with a Spanish infusion. The 150-seat restaurant and bar features an open kitchen, wood-burning oven and a full ceviche bar; expect English’s signature dishes like paella with lobster and chorizo. The black leather-tufted chairs, beige crocodile booths and crystal chandeliers add a touch of glamour to this fine establishment.
Justin Timberlake – Southern Hospitality
In 2005, Justin Timberlake, Eytan Sugarman and Trace Ayala opened Dostino, serving Southern Italian fare by chef Mario Curko. In July 2008, the trio debuted Southern Hospitality in New York — a nod to the trio’s roots south of the Mason-Dixon line roots. Executive chef and pitmaster guru, Ray Lampe, aka Dr BBQ, created a menu featuring home-style barbeque fare. There are dishes like pulled pork (a Timberlake favourite), Southern-fried catfish, Memphis-Style dry rubbed spareribs, and Beale Street BBQ chicken.
Jennifer Lopez – Madre’s
Jennifer Lopez labels Madre’s, in Pasadena, California, ”a family restaurant with a little bit of sexiness to it.” She played a key role in nearly every aspect of the restaurant’s creation, working closely with renowned designer Rachel Ashwell. Reserve one of the cabana booths, which are complete with a curtain for privacy. Lopez’s favorite dish is said to be the bistec encebollado (prime sirloin steak marinated and sautéed with caramelised onions).
Paul Newman – Dressing Room
Paul Newman’s business partner Michel Nischan, chef and co-owner of Dressing Room in Wesport, Connecticut, says that the restaurant’s goal is to “restore American culture to a time before the emergence of fast food and convenience.” So expect to find true Yankee pot roast, chicken and dumplings, pot pies and angel food cake in an inviting countryside setting. Co-owner Newman calls himself the “Director of Opinions,” working closely with Nischan and the Dressing Room team to develop menu ideas, attend tastings and brainstorm about events for the restaurant.
Don Johnson – Ana Mandara
Don Johnson and Cheech Marin opened Ana Mandara, in San Francisco, California in 2000, which transports diners to a rural Vietnamese village with 1,000-year-old artefacts, carving, pottery, glass and dishware. Executive chef Khai Duong, one of the world’s leading Asian chefs, created recipes inspired from his Vietnamese village, Nha Trang. As Johnson once noted, “To describe my passion for the culture and for the delicate nature of the Vietnamese cuisine a la chef Khai Duong is like trying to describe love.”
Rose McGowan, Ben Harper, Laura Dern – Dominick’s
Once a genuine Hollywood haunt, the original Dominick’s was a Rat Pack favourite. Now under the co-ownership of Rose McGowan, Ben Harper and Laura Dern, the Los Angeles restaurant brings home-style Italian cooking to the hipster crowd, serving classic Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, homemade fettuccine carbonara, wood-grilled chicken marsala and veal parmesan.
Francis Ford Coppola – Café Zoetrope & Cafe Rosso
Francis Ford Coppola told Forbes Traveler that he began cooking in junior high school and never stopped. As a very poor college student, he’d whip up his mother’s recipes for girlfriends in his tiny apartment rather than take them out to dinner. Later, he cooked for his cast and crew during film shoots, so opening cafes was a natural move for him. Before opening them, however, he journeyed to Naples, tasting all kinds of Verace Pizza Napoletana, watching the pizzaiola ply his craft so he could give the diner an authentic experience. The result is fresh pizzas made in a wood-burning oven and pastas made to order. He’s keen to note that you should come as you are to the cafes - located in San Francisco and Palo Alto in California - and stay as long as you like.
Julian Lennon – Blowfish Sushi
When chef and Blowfish Sushi owner, Ritsuo Tsuchida, brought his San Jose and San Francisco eatery to the L.A. crowd— with Julian Lennon as a silent investor — he sought to continue his goal of making the culinary experience just like theatre — and high-tech theatre at that. A state-of-the-art audio-visual system streams Japanese anime and vintage Japanese films to more than 15 plasma screens in the restaurant while a live DJ booth plays an eclectic soundtrack. Try dishes like the Kyo Twist, a melt-in-your-mouth black cod marinated with sake and miso.
Robert de Niro – Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Rubicon, Ago Restaurant
In 1990, Robert De Niro and famed restaurateur Drew Nieporent opened Tribeca Grill in New York, and the duo continued their magic with Nobu, New York, and Rubicon, San Francisco, turning Tribeca and the world into their culinary oyster. De Niro joined forces with celebrated chef Agostino Sciandri to open Ago, an upscale Italian trattoria, at his new Greenwich hotel in New York (earlier outposts are in L.A., Miami and Las Vegas).
Moby – Teany
“One of our other goals with Teany is to make a vegetarian restaurant/café where even non-vegetarians are happy to hang out,” wrote pop artist Moby, who co-owns this New York cafe with business partner Kelly Tisdale. “We wanted Teany to be a place wherein everyone feels comfortable, regardless of whether they’re vegetarian or vegan or carnivore or what have you.” In addition to serving 98 different kinds of tea, there are dishes like goat cheese and artichoke salad, English Heinz beans on toast with farmhouse cheddar and the vegan BLT made with tempeh bacon, greens, tomatoes and veganaise.
Gloria Estefan – Lario’s on the Beach
You’ll find Lario’s on the Beach, owned by Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, in the heart of South Beach on Ocean Drive. Weekends at this Cuban eatery are especially jumping when a live Latin band performs. Don’t miss the mouth-watering grilled skirt steak, arroz con pollo (yellow rice with chicken) or paella. Grab a tasty margarita, park yourself on the terrace and watch the world go by.