America’s Next Great Restaurant

By Karen

I just saw the premier of this new Bobby Flay-hosted NBC series and got hooked in spite of myself. It’s on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET and On Demand with Verizon for 9 weeks.

The premise is that ordinary people (not necessarily foodies) who think they have great chain restaurant ideas have to convince 4 judges that their concept will work in establishments in Hollywood, Minneapolis, and NYC, which the judges will personally invest in.

I’m going to continue to watch because…

I liked the way they quickly weeded down 21 finalists to 10 without all the faux drama. In all but 2 iffy cases, where they fairly let the guys cook another sample of their food, they gave everybody an immediate thumbs up or down — without dragging their decisions out with debate, “significant” looks, or pregnant pauses. And I’m betting there wasn’t a bottle of gin stashed under the judges’ table.

There’s no sexpot host. Judge Curtis Stone is the eye candy, but he’s also well-qualified. Steve Ells, the co-CEO of Chipotle, is endearing in a nerdy way. Lorena Garcia is the anti-Padma. And all those throw-downs seem to have kept Bobby Flay’s head out of his ass.

In this first episode, the contestants had to formally present their idea and prepare a sample menu item. This was a curveball for some of them who envisioned having “people” do the actual cooking. Everybody prepared standard food. No little piles of weird stuff sitting on smears of goo.

The judges based their decisions basically whether the concept had legs, if the food had wide appeal, and how much vision and leadership the contestant displayed.

The judges didn’t engage in any kvetchy nitpicking. All they wanted was decent food that could be prepared quickly for a reasonable price that “normal” people would want to eat frequently. My kind of standards.

I’ve already picked my favorite contestants, and they are:

Jamawn – W3’s (Wood’s Waffles and Wings)
Fran – The Sports Wrap
Sandra – Limbo (healthy food and decadent food – you choose)
Joseph – Saucy Balls (meatballs)

My money’s on Joseph to win.

Have any of you seen it? What do you think?

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9 Responses to America’s Next Great Restaurant

  1. adele says:

    I purposely didn’t watch America’s Next Great Restaurant, but your recap makes me think I’ll tune it in. BTW, where’s the FoodPress stuff coming from?

  2. catsworking says:

    Adele, after Top Chef, I really appreciated the lack of pretension of all concerned with this program.

    This week I saw some commercials on SyFy for some new cooking show that creepy Marcel from Top Chef got for himself. That’s one I will definitely not be watching. He’s like Charlie Sheen in an apron.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about with FoodPress. What is it?

  3. MorganLF says:

    Don’t know why but I caught some of it. Was not really thrilled but not awful. I think there was nothing else on and I may have been waiting for a movie to start.

    My take – do not care how good Wings & Waffles are noone named Jamawn (is that a take on Jam-On?) is getting my vote for anything.

    Saucy Balls, need you?

    Anything in a wrap I find LOATHESOME.

    Limbo not a bad concept. We have a place like that nearby that is fabulous and been around for years healthy & decadent but I am not crazy about the name, Limbo. MAkes me think pf that party dance. Why not call it Fat n’Skinny?

  4. catsworking says:

    Joseph reminds me a lot of a guy I used to know (one of the few I regret letting get away), so he’s a sentimental favorite. He’s also Italian. And he said while he was making his usual Sunday meatballs, his daughter suggested the name “Saucy Balls.” I think you’ve got to have a pair to go on national television and say that name with a straight face. I think he works in insurance in real life.

    I doubt any of the restaurants will end up being what their creators envisioned once the judges finish with them. I assume the challenges will be to hone the concepts until they’re ready for mass market, so the names will probably change.

    I just picked my favorites, but there are 6 other ideas on the table, and some of them are healthy and ethnic. I’ll confess I’m going mainly on the personalities of the contestants and who I think can pull off a win.

    I guess because the whole show is based on the concept of “normal” food, foodies will look down their noses and accuse Bobby Flay of slumming it. On the other hand, Bobby IS on NBC while his gourmet counterparts are mostly scattered across cable. (Ripert really took the high road, going with PBS.)

    Morgan, what’s your beef with wraps? They’re just rolled sandwiches.

  5. adele says:

    When I first looked at your new post, there was an ad from FoodPress at the bottom, with a recipe for Tuscan chicken soup — honest. But it’s not there now. I think there was something similar below this week’s Bourdain post, but again, it didn’t stay there. Odd.

    I’ve started The Comedians and am finding it a good read. Graham Greene is such a graceful writer.

  6. catsworking says:

    Adele, that’s interesting. When I look at this site, I never see any ads, but I’m aware that certain browsers (I think it’s the browsers) throw them in if they find some topic that lends itself to an ad. Rest assured, I never make a penny from any advertising you see here, and I have no control over it.

    The Comedians isn’t available as an e-book through Barnes & Noble. I checked last night. Only a couple of Greene’s books are.

  7. MorganLF says:

    It’s just the thought of someone handling it and the rolling and touching. Then they usually drizzle on some sauce and yecccccchhhhh MAYO since the wrap is made from recycled toillet paper tubes—uggg GNarly!!

    I want to read “The Comedians” but I just checked out a new Bio on Hedy Lamarr and I am having a crowd in for dinner this weekend so I will be pressed for time.

    Travels with My Aunt, is one of the funniest movies of all time. Maggie Smith,hysterical directed by George Cukor and it shows. It looks like an early Hepburn screwball comedy but way racier. Hard to fnd. I can’t wait to read the book.

  8. catsworking says:

    Morgan, funny you should say that. Katharine Hepburn was originally set to star in Travels with My Aunt, but she pulled out early on and was replaced by Maggie Smith. I don’t think I’ve seen the reason anywhere. But I think Maggie Smith was more suited to the role anyway, so it was probably for the best.

    Yes, I can see where some wraps seem to come in toilet paper rolls. I have that problem myself when I try to make them with certain types of tortillas. They just won’t stay moist and insist on cracking.

  9. zappa says:

    oh,crap,Morgan,you just ruined Baja Fresh for me

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