By Merle Exit
When Vinny Accardi opened his Glendale steak restaurant Room 55 in 2014, he had visions of turning fine dining on its head with high-end food without the pretensions.
Now Accardi is hoping to shake things up again with his recent appearance on the reality TV show “Restaurant Startup.”
Accardi was a contestant on the CNBC show’s third season premiere Wednesday seeking an investment from hosts Tim Love and Joe Bastianich.
Bastianich, son of Douglaston celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich, and business partner to another high-profile restaurateur, Mario Batali, hosts the show with Texas-based chef Love.
On the program, which is sort of a “Shark Tank” for foodies, restaurant owners and chefs prepare some of their signature menu items and pitch ideas for their dream business concept to the hosts.
This week’s show, titled “Rising the Stakes,” pitted Accardi and his friend Trevor McGrath and their Room 55 against Stockton, Calif.-based Midgley’s Public House to see which steak place rises to the top of the heap.
Accardi, who refers to himself as a scrappy butcher turned restaurateur, previously appeared as a contestant on Fox TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Competitor Michael Midgley, also has a few TV credits to his name, including stints on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” and Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” His Stockon eatery also specializes in top-notch steak cuts.
Both chefs cooked up appetizers and entrées for the judges to sample.
Accardi was looking for a $375,000 investment for 25 percent equity in his business.
After the preliminary round, the judges opted to give Accardi a pass to the next level. He received $7,500, the keys to a working Los Angeles restaurant and 36 hours to put their concept to the test and create a business plan, come up with a branding campaign and launch his dream restaurant — this time calling the place 55 Steak.
Under the watchful eye of culinary consultant Antonia Lofaso, the aspiring food moguls opened their doors, served their food, and tested their concept on the public.
“Shrink the portion sizes and serve less expensive cuts of meat,” Lofaso suggested. “You can turn this entire menu into a small plate steak house.”
Then, based on reaction from diners, the judges decide whether to invest.
Love offered Accardi $125,000 for 30 percent of the business, while Bastianich countered with $100,000 for 25 percent, but also keeping the name Room 55.
Accardi decided to keep it all about Queens, and went with Bastianich’s offer.