Eatery owners sue ''The Restaurant'' chef Rocco DiSpirito. They claim the reality TV chef's mismanagement has resulted in a $600,000 loss

By Gary Susman
Updated February 11, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Has Rocco DiSpirito, the chef behind NBC’s reality show ”The Restaurant,” been paying too much attention to the cameras and too little to the kitchen and the cash register? That’s the allegation made by a group of the backers of the Rocco’s 22nd Street eatery, who filed suit against DiSpirito in Manhattan’s State Supreme Court on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

According to AP, plaintiffs China Grill Management allege in court papers that Rocco’s 22nd Street, in its seven months of operation, has yet to make a profit, that it has, in fact, lost $600,000, and that the ”quality of the food and service has been widely criticized.” The investors also claim that DiSpirito has earned ”substantial sums” from media appearances from which his business partners have not profited, the New York Times reports.

In a statement, DiSpirito insisted that ”Rocco’s is a success because of my vision and hard work.” He said that he ”unfortunately chose the wrong business partner” and looked forward to refuting the plaintiffs’ claims in court. Meanwhile, for fans who want to see DiSpirito turn up the heat in the kitchen, NBC already has another season of ”The Restaurant” in the can and plans to serve it up later this spring.