New reality series features NYC chef - and his publicist

New York: NBC's new reality show The Restaurant sports a first for its genre - a working PR man as an ongoing character.

New York: NBC's new reality show The Restaurant sports a first for its genre - a working PR man as an ongoing character.

But Matt Heien, head of Bragman Nyman Cafarelli's East Coast entertainment division, is only part of the PR machine grabbing media attention for show's star chef, Rocco DiSpirito, and its restaurant, called Rocco's. Although Heien is described as DiSpirito's publicist during the show, his agency is actually handling PR for The Restaurant.

The Susan Magrino Agency of New York has been handling PR for DiSpirito and his other restaurant, Union Pacific, since last November. It's working with a branding agency, Ants in Pants, which is handling the overall crafting of the Rocco brand.

"PR is the main tool for building this brand," said Fred Siegel, a partner at the branding agency.

Restaurant producer Mark Burnett, the creative mind behind Survivor, wanted a PR person as an onscreen character in the new show, said Helene Jaysen, an EVP and partner at Bragman Nyman Cafarelli.

The agency had been brought in solely to handle PR for the show. Jaysen picked Heien to be the onscreen presence for the firm because of his experience in working on club and restaurant openings. "I had no qualms about putting Matt in front of the camera," she said.

Heien said he quickly forgot cameras were filming his every move. However, he did eject the cameras from his office and turned off his wireless microphone when he was discussing other clients' business.

The Magrino Agency's mission going forward will be to keep DiSpirito in the news and keep his brand fresh after the six-episode TV show - and its buzz - ends. "Obviously, having the broadcast component is highly helpful," said agency president Susan Magrino. "But he's not a one-trick pony. I've always felt very strongly he has to be known as a chef first. He's got to have longevity."

Future PR will center on a book DiSpirito has coming out this fall, on his restaurants, and on other partnership deals he develops to broaden his brand.

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