Episodes: Nine (hour)
TV show dates: March 6, — May 1, 2011
Series status: Cancelled
Judges include: Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia, and Steve Ells.
TV show description:
People from various walks of life are given the opportunity to see their original restaurant concept spring to life — to open it as a restaurant chain in Hollywood, Minneapolis and New York City.
Funding the restaurant concepts are four accredited investors: distinguished restaurateur Bobby Flay, internationally renowned chef Curtis Stone, executive chef and restaurateur Lorena Garcia, and Steve Ells, the founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle.
After a nationwide search, the top 21 competitors present their restaurant concepts to the investors and 11 are quickly eliminated. The remaining 10 then battle it out over the course of the season.
The investors also serve as mentors to the competitors and work side-by-side with them to further develop their concepts and to put them through rigorous business and cooking challenges. The goal is to uncover which idea has what it takes to become America’s next great restaurant.
The investors retreat to their Judges’ Table to discuss the results of the day’s challenge and the difficult decision of choosing a winner, while the contestants try to stay calm. Curtis starts out by saying that he’s blown away; all the concepts turned out great, and they got to eat three sets of amazing food. Bobby suggests they focus on Spice Coast first. Sudhir was well organized and seemed to inspire the people he worked with. But everyone thinks he took his food too far in the Mexican direction. Steve points out that Sudhir offers a completely new and exciting concept: bold flavors with a healthy twist – the time for this concept could be just right. Curtis agrees, then adds that Sudhir still has a lot of work to do.
Bobby and the investors congratulate the final three contestants, Jamawn, Joey and Sudhir, who are on the verge of realizing their wildest dreams. For their final challenge, the guys will transform three identical restaurant facades within the next three days and soft launch their restaurant concepts on Restaurant Row. Architects Donnie Schmidt and Lorcan O’Herlihy will help the contestants design their restaurants. Bobby attends these meetings to weigh in, warning Jamawn to make sure his music theme doesn’t upstage his food. Luckily, Jamawn is open to Bobby’s advice and decides to pull back on the music, while allowing that he still has to put his touch on the place and stand behind his concept.
With 44 hours left to go, crews of workmen arrive at Restaurant Row to begin construction, while the guys head to Charlie’s Fixtures to purchase accessories. Then it’s back to the studio for a meeting with design firm Sequence, brought in by Steve to refine logos, signage and brand identity. Next the contestants meet with their chefs to design their final menus. Joey’s chef advises him to stick to proven meatball basics. Trying to keep his menu balanced and healthy, Jamawn debates what to bake and whether to fry, and Sudhir decides to emulate Chipotle in naming his menu items. With Steve as a potential key investor, how can it hurt to mimic him?
With 30 hours left before the soft open, the investors enter the kitchen dressed in chef’s gear to lend a hand and some culinary advice. Curtis takes the lead, and quickly asks Jamawn about his menu – two of his three dishes will be fried? Isn’t this supposed to be about healthy soul food? The controversy swirls around chicken. Lorena thinks he should bake it, but Bobby looks like he might cry when he discovers fried chicken may well be off the menu. Whatever Jamawn decides to do, he’s in a tricky position.
With 20 hours to go, the contestants interview employees to help them work their restaurants, while simultaneously supervising construction. Joey interviews a young woman named Melissa, who confidently promises he’ll be putting his restaurant service in good hands. Two hours later, the guys are back in the kitchen, discussing the next day’s service. Joey wants servers to deliver the food to the tables. Sudhir has decided not to go with Curtis’ suggested shrimp curry recipe, and hopes the investors will respect the fact that he’s judiciously weighed their advice. After sleeping on it, Jamawn has decided to forgo fried chicken in favor of healthier baked chicken, breaking his chef’s heart. Later in the day, Jamawn breaks down in tears, overwhelmed by his dream restaurant now come to life.
The next day, dreams come even closer to reality as the guys enter their finished restaurants. They take a minute to soak it up – then surprise! Their families and friends have been flown in for the soft launch! Tears spring to Jamawn’s eyes as he hugs his father, fiancé and kids. Sudhir’s sister arrives with his friends, and Joey’s jaw drops when his wife and kids come running in. Jamawn’s fiancé Tyrah is impressed with Soul Daddy’s purple-themed decor, which Jamawn picked because of their wedding colors, purple and black. But the hugging and catching up has to be put on hold because there’s only 90 minutes to open, and the restaurant workers are arriving. Sudhir goes over all the details with his crew, while Joey decides to try a few practice runs. When it’s clear that his workers don’t have his process down, Joey starts yelling. Luckily, Joey’s chef gives him a pep talk, promising everything will be fine.
Finally the investors arrive and crowds of diners start lining up outside the three restaurants. Sudhir is brimming with confidence and pride at what he’s achieved. Even if his concept is something of a red-headed stepchild, he has great faith that it’s the most innovative and the direction fast casual should go. Everything’s running smoothly at Soul Daddy, but the orders are piling up at the Brooklyn Meatball Company. First stop for the investors is Spice Coast, and they’re impressed by Sudhir’s restaurant and menu design. Bobby quickly points out that Sudhir has renamed most of his food with Mexican names. The other investors agree; Sudhir has gone too Chipotle. Curtis is a little put off that Sudhir decided not to go with his shrimp curry. Lorena feels Sudhir may be more of a big picture guy than the guy who rolls up his sleeves. Nevertheless, the diners really like Sudhir’s fresh new flavors.
The pile of orders is only getting bigger at Brooklyn Meatball Company, and Joey’s chef puts his finger on the problem: it’s Melissa, who seems to be writing her checks in Chinese. Joey starts freaking out, but lucky for him, the investors move on to Soul Daddy next. They immediately remark that most of the diners in Jamawn’s restaurant are smiling; the atmosphere is relaxed and controlled; and the servers are knowledgeable. Bobby is immediately disappointed not to see fried chicken on the menu, but he loves the greens. Curtis thinks Jamawn made the right choice by not going fried, and everyone agrees: the baked chicken is delicious. The only misstep is the purple color choice, which Steve thinks evokes more of a nightclub atmosphere. When Curtis asks how often the investors would eat Soul Daddy’s food, Lorena admits it would probably only be once a week. Still, Jamawn’s dad Lyman couldn’t be prouder.
Meanwhile, all hell is breaking loose at Joey’s restaurant. The air conditioner is blowing the orders onto the floor, mixing them up, and several of the diners have been waiting more than 45 minutes, which isn’t exactly fast casual. He’s just trying to get things under control when the investors show up. Bobby immediately notices the giant pile of orders, and Lorena comments that the atmosphere in the kitchen seems sluggish. Joey rushes to get the investors seated and fed, but he’s clearly shaken. Nevertheless, the investors just love his food, as do the diners. Bobby advises Joey to keep his chin up and stay the course, so that his customers will think his food was worth the wait
Although some people waited an hour for Joey’s food, most of them loved it. Lorena thinks he took his food to a whole new level. Joey’s mistake was choosing a different style of service than his competitors. Lorena fears that Joey doesn’t show common sense when it comes to making decisions, and doesn’t seem to think well on his feet, which is what the restaurant business is all about. Still she thinks the design of his restaurant was absolutely beautiful. As for Jamawn, the investors loved his leadership, teamwork and food. The only complaints? The color purple and the devastating lack of fried chicken. Knowing that it’s time to make their decision, the judges reach their final conclusion and bring the competitors back to hear their decision. America’s Next Great Restaurant is…
Soul Daddy! But a restaurant doesn’t open overnight. It’s 10 months later when Bobby meets Jamawn outside Hollywood & Highland for the first glimpse of the brand new Los Angeles’ Soul Daddy. Dressed in purple, Jamawn is looking sharp to witness this culmination of his dreams – even if there’s not so much purple in the restaurant, there will be purple T-shirts. Jamawn’s family is on hand to share in this incredible moment. Bobby’s thrilled with the restaurant and hopes the investors and Jamawn will be partners – and family – for a long time.
First aired: May 1, 2011.
Image courtesy NBC.