Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is “America’s Next Great Restaurant” America’s Next Great Reality Show?

It certainly has some great elements in place, like the becoming Bobby Flay and the comely Curtis Stone. I’m just hoping they’re not going to spend the first few weeks showing us nothing but losers, à la early rounds of American Idol. THAT will be a big time waster.

I will also not be interested if someone wants to start a franchise serving 20 variations of cream of something soup on Minute rice, (even if I DID grow up on that, actually BECAUSE I grew up on that). 

Bobby introduces the show by telling us that in 1952 Harlan Sanders drove "across America, selling his revolutionary chicken frying equipment. Today KFC pulls in 7 billion dollars a year.” Gosh, think of all the health care costs for unhealthy Americans that could have been saved if the colonel had gone bust in the early years. In 1965, Subway is started. And in 1993, Steve Ells opens the first Chipotle with an $85,000 loan from his dad. Now it earns 1.5 billion dollars a year.

Bobby tells us about HIS ventures. 20 years ago he opened his first restaurant. He now has 6 high end and 5 “fast casual” burger places.

On May 1, 2011, three restaurants will open up in LA, NY and…Minneapolis. Minneapolis? Alrighty then.

This hour they’re knocking 21 of the finalists down to 10. The people have to prepare one dish from their fast casual restaurant concept and serve it to the four investors.

Bobby says the next best casual restaurant has to be affordable and feature quality ingredients. (That last thing is certainly not a requirement for success in this country.)

Joey, sent from central casting to play the cousin of Tony Soprano, intones “This is NOT a dress rehearsal”. He’s going to “bring his A game”. I sure hope we can get all the hackneyed phrases out of the way before we see their restaurant ideas.

Here are the folks, with my instant reactions to them.

I like Fran with the Sports Wrap idea. She would feature healthy sandwich wraps. She’s a former WNBA player (on the first team to win a championship ring) and she’s cool. Okay, I think she should win. We can all go home now.

Joey (from above) does life insurance and estate planning. I don’t want to be so obvious as to say that’s a curious job for a guy who looks like a hit man. Oops, I just did. He says, “My passion is to DO a restaurant.” Out. Oh, his restaurant (of course) would have meatballs.

Sarah - private chef to “A list celebrities”. Eh, who needs that? OUT!

Sudhir – His idea is a Southern Indian Chipotle. I have no idea what that means, but I bet his food is awesome.

Sandy – Short-haired (very short) lady with a DUMB idea - a restaurant called Limbo that has high calorie choices and also their not-so-caloric versions. Who wants that? Every time you go in, you have to fight with your demons??? Am I being “good” today or “bad”? I hate that almost as much as talking about “clean” (and by extension, dirty) food.

Jamawn is next from Detroit, with his Chicken and WAFFLES idea. You pass, you’re in!!! (That isn’t exactly original, especially in Los Angeles, but sign me up.) Oh, it’s chicken WINGS and waffles. Even better.

Super-tanned Jason has developed his own barbecue sauce to go with his burgers and wings. I think he said he already sells it all around the country. Whatever.

Joe has 3 restaurants in Los Angeles called Big Wang’s. Eww. I’m thinking he’s not referring to a Chinese chef. He’s looking to expand his business, he says. He tells one of the other competitors that several of them are doing wings, including “the black guy, of course” pointing at Jamawn.  Okay, then, we have one racist so far.

Chicken and Waffles Guy thinks Joe is a jerk, without even hearing that remark. Also Joe tells Joey his wife is weird for not liking wings. I like Joey better than Joe. OUT!

Joey Meatballs says Joe is over confident. We’re definitely getting the idea that the wingman is a wingnut.

This little chipmunk-voiced blond wants to open a restaurant called SOUPZ. Her inspiration comes from SOUP. She actually said that. Byuh-bye. (BTW, her day job is picking up pet doo-doo. I’m glad THAT wasn’t her inspiration.)

Lawyer Stephenie’s (that’s not MY misspelling) concept is “fixed calorie healthy fast food”. That’s sounds about as exciting as a brain scan. NEXT!

Alex wants to do something new and exciting with tacos. I LOVE IT! He had me at “fusion”. Some his ideas - a Greek Lamb Taco and a Chicken Parmesan Taco.

Marisa’s wok idea is okay, but the name is dumb. NO ONE WANTS TO GO TO A RESTAURANT CALLED "Stir Fry For The Healthy Heart"Isn’t 99% of this common sense?

Fusion Taco guy is slightly sexist and says Marisa doesn’t belong in a kitchen. She belongs with “a car and a driver”. Just because she gave her restaurant a bad name doesn’t make her a prostitute. In fact, she’d probably have given it a sexier name if that really were her profession.

Bobby tells them and us again that this is the moment of truth. I do NOT like his pink striped tie. Curtis says food made all his dreams come true.

Private chef Sarah's Mac and Cheese Cupcake (How hackneyed is that?) is awful. Chipotle guy says it has the texture of the brown bag it was served in. Bobby says simply that the cupcake is not good. Chipotle guy (let’s make it Chipotle for short) says her concept has too many moving parts.

Bobby says right there and then that they will NOT be investing in her restaurant. She tells us she’ll keep fighting. She’d have to for anyone to like that cupcake.

Blond chipmunk Aimee is annoying. She serves them soup. They can’t believe how bad it is and Bobby spills some on himself. Plus they say that hot soup is not a good idea for warm weather. She hadn’t even thought of that. They deep-six her.

Fran, my number one (and almost only) pick is next. Hers is a Sports and Fitness themed restaurant “that features healthy wraps with organic ingredients.” Now we’re getting somewhere. 

Fran is great, she will definitely go on. She says as soon as you walk into the restaurant, you’ll get high-fived, there will be score boards and a basketball court. You order your sandwich and when your number comes up, “You hear applause”. Heck! I’d go there just to get clapped at! Chipotle says she’s a born leader. They also love that there’s a fitness tip with each sandwich. She is the first entry into the final ten. YES!

Eric from Nashville wants to make grilled cheese sandwiches…not just for himself, but for his wife and their future children. How sweet and sincere, and BOOORRRIIINGGG. He has all the passion of processed American cheese food slices (individually wrapped).

Eric’s restaurant would be called MeltWorks. Great, when it’s bad the headline could read MeltWorks Dissolves, or if things really get bad - MeltWorks Evaporates. Curtis isn’t sure he’d leave his house for a grilled cheese. No decision yet. They think the sandwiches may take too long to make.

Brianne is a weirdo. She unrolls and blows up something, which has NOTHING to do with Café Creativi. (Again, that’s not MY misspelling, just its strange name.) It’s a kids’ left and right brained restaurant. Don’t ask.

Sina – Persian food with his kebab slider. He admits that the American public is probably not interested in this kind of food. The judges admit that they're not interested in investing.

Nam Nam – Vietnamese.  All they had to hear was that the concept involved waiters. Not Investing.

Chic haircut gal’s idea is Pot Belly, serving lots of different pot pies, like cheeseburger pot pie or Phillie cheese steak pot pie. (You know I hate the word POT with savory pies, but I like her idea.) The investors don’t. They think it’s too caloric and heavy, plus she (whoever she is) has no idea about the nutritional content of her dish. NEXT!

Back to Brianne blowing up some plastic structure thing. Bobby says we will NOT be investing in your restaurant. Curtis asks himself, “Why am I doing this? Is this the best that America's got to offer?”

Joey comes in with his meatball idea. Unfortunately, he wants to call it Saucy Balls. Bobby laughs; Curtis grimaces. He serves them Grandma’s meatballs.  “This is the song in my heart,” Joey says. They like him. Curtis says, “I love your balls.” “Can I leave before I start crying?” Joey asks. Bobby: “Simple but well-thought out idea.” “They love my balls,” he tells the other competitors.

Krystal and Greg’s tapas style Hick’s is next. It’s southern comfort food.  The judges taste their banana cream pie with banana chips. They all like it. Chipotle likes it. Bobby wants to know what their relationship is. They say “friends”. Lorena “It’s about the love” Garcia wants to know if they’ve dated. HUH? They admit to it, but Krystal assures them that they aren’t together now, as if that would ruin their chances. (Would you be allowed to ask that on a REAL job interview?) They’re through to the final ten.

Marisa comes next with Wok, Stir Fry For The Healthy Heart. Well, at least she put the word WOK in front of her wonky name. Of course, there are probably 50,000 other places called Wok, but who's counting?

Curtis wants to know if the food will be cooked to order. She says no. NO?!! See what I mean about common sense. It’s OBVIOUSLY a terrible idea. Curtis says that won’t work. She makes it to the final 10??! She DOES have really pretty hair.

Joe, icky Joe, comes up with Lil’ Wang, which is the relaxed version of his Big Wang. Bobby says his wings have to beat everyone else’s wings. He doesn’t make it. That was kind of a big build up for a big bunch of nothing.

Waffle guy goes next with W3’s. Yum!  I do like the food says Chipotle. Bobby asks if he’d be okay if they play with his idea a bit. He’s in! Yeah!

Jason from Lenox, Mass., wants to do burgers and wings. They can’t decide about him. 

They love Sudhir’s The Tiffin Box. When they press him, he agrees to make his menu "10% to 15%" meat-based. Bobby laughs.

Alex’s Hard ‘N Soft Taco Bar is next. He has SEVENTY FIVE taco ideas, crab cake taco, hot wing taco etc. I love the idea, but the name doesn’t do it for me. He tells them the food is fusion, not Mexican. Great idea. If he simplifies the menu, they’ll agree for him to go on. He does agree.

Stephanie, I mean Stephenie, is up with her horrible Calorie Compleat idea. You order the food in certain calorie ranges. It's fine if the calories are displayed in some out of the way place, but, otherwise, forget it. Plus her poor presentation doesn’t help. Lorena “It’s about the love” Garcia likes her. ??? Chipotle too. She goes on to the final 10.

Sandy is back with Limbo, or heaven and hell combined. (I know which one reflects my opinion of her concept.) She says she would have healthy AND “devilish choices” available and you can pick. Do people really want to have crisis of conscience every time they go out to eat? That’s a dreadful idea. Curtis loves it. Really? They all like it? Oh gawd! Chipotle guy is “infectiously enthusiastic”. Those were HIS words. She’s in the top ten. I guess they need a few obvious people to get rid of.

The judges ask boring grilled cheese Eric and Jason, burger and wing guy, to have a cook-off. Eric has to make as many grilled cheese in 15 minutes as possible and Jason has to cook the best burger ever.

Eric and Jason go into the kitchen. Jason cooks and is sweating up a storm. Eww. The judges taste the burgers. Eric has made 29 grilled cheeses in 15 minutes. Curtis says the sandwich looks good.

The two get sent back to “the business center”. The judges discuss.  And they choose Eric, not Jason. Yawn. Ok, fine. I don’t really care. Jason says Bobby is scared of another burger place.

All the finalists end up on a circular set with food stalls all around them. The names of their restaurants are on each stand in lights.  Joey says he’s close to his dream. I do like him okay now, but Fran is my gal.

I also have to admit I like having finalists at the end of week one. It makes me feel like we’re moving right along. But are they picking reality stars or people with decent restaurant concepts? I would imagine the former doesn’t necessarily possess the skill set for the latter. We’ll see how things develop. 


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Bobby Flay is hosting YET another show? No wonder I hear his restaurants aren't all that. He's spending more time on TV than in the kitchen.

Will the winner be the next great restaurant because it's a great restaurant, or because it was on TV and lots of people will go to it. :-D

Emily said...

Yes, Rachel, he is. Bobby Flay must be a billionaire.

I watched this! I'm going to try and remember to watch it every week, but I probably won't.

All of the restaurant names were too dirty.. Big Wangs?! Saucy balls? Hard and Soft Tacos? OMG. I wouldn't eat at any of thost places.

I kinda like the idea of a fast food Indian restaurant. We have one Indian restaurant and it looks very shady.

norriekay said...

I have a great idea! How about a
good restaurant like they used to have in Chicago and Kansas City
years ago? Ever heard of Ralph Gaine's Colony House, or Jaspers
in Kansas City? Or 'The Athens',
or Andy's or Arley's in Chicago?
How 'bout the Palmer House?

Used to be you could lay down some
change and get excellent food in
return. We hate these chain restaurants, tough meat, too much
grease, just awful! We eat at home
mostly. None of these ideas on this show would get us out of the
house to drop our money!