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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What will be America's next great restaurant?

"America's Next Great Restaurant" is NBC's competition reality show featuring four investors (chefs Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone and Lorena Garcia, and Chipotle founder Steve Ells) who have been given the task of selecting the perfect concept for -- you guessed it -- America's next great restaurant. The focus is on fast-casual eateries, otherwise known as fast food.

The show began in March with several competitors, and the list was narrowed to 10 chefs with 10 different concepts:
  • chicken and waffles--now soul food
  • fixed calorie portions--now healthy, Mediterranean
  • fusion tacos
  • grilled cheese (Danielle says: Melt, anyone?)
  • healthy/indulgent; menu items presented in either a healthy version or a less-than-good for you version
  • Indian cuisine
  • meatballs
  • Southern food
  • stir fry
  • wraps

Now we're halfway through the season, and just five contestants remain in the running to open America's next great restaurant:
Krystal Seymour and Gregory Westcott, Grill'Billies
Sudhir Kandula, Spice Coast
(Indian cuisine)
Stephenie Park, Harvest Sol
(healthy, Mediterranean)
Joseph Galluzzi, The Brooklyn Meatball Co.
(formerly Saucy Balls)
Jamawn J. Woods, Soul Daddy
(chicken and waffles/soul food)

Thoughts on the show

Cheryl: I like food and going out to eat, so I like the idea of this show. I've liked several of the restaurant concepts, and I've agreed with the judges on pretty much all of the decisions. What I don't like is the seemingly strict time limits on each of their challenges. I understand needing to make split-second business decisions, and needing to work quickly in a fast-casual restaurant environment, but I think that kind of stuff improves over time after the concept and recipes are well fleshed out.

Danielle: It's been a lot of fun to watch the as contestants go from having a pipe-dream-esque idea to something that could actually work as a restaurant. We get to see contestants develop menu ideas and crew uniform concepts, work with graphic designers on signage and logos, and then try to put them in action in front of test groups and the judges.

"You will not be opening America's next great restaurant"

Cheryl: I would like to see restaurants selling wraps, fusion tacos and customized stir fry, but I'm not surprised any of those contestants didn't make it through. The menus were intriguing and different, but the contestants struggled to develop their restaurants into working models. A good restaurant is a lot more than good food.

Danielle: While Cheryl and I both liked some of the concepts that have been eliminated, it was easy to see why they were chosen. Each week we seem to easily guess which concepts will be on the chopping block next. We watched as Saucy Balls turned into the Brooklyn Meatball Co. as his name and imagery was deemed borderline inappropriate and a bit campy. I guess it's been interesting to see this perspective since I haven't really thought about all the ins and outs of the restaurant business before.

Remaining contestants

Cheryl: I'm happy with the top five. I'm impressed at the comeback by Grill'Billies, which seemed to be headed home four weeks ago. I would call Grill'Billies the front-runners now (and I'd love to try some of their cherry cola pulled pork). I'd also really like to try the meatballs (his Italian grandmother's recipe!) and Indian food. I could take or leave the soul food (not exactly my thing, though I'm tempted by the chicken and waffles) or Mediterranean cuisine (even though it's probably the healthiest option). Who gets eliminated next week really depends on who fails the challenge. The meatballs restaurateur needs to kick it up a notch because I don't know if his great food will help him keep his head above water.

Danielle: Cheryl and I are in agreement. I saw Grill'Billies leaving early, but they have made a stellar comeback. As we saw in last week's challenge when the restaurateurs were tasked with operating food trucks in downtown LA, the Grill'Billies team seems to lack some business sense (actually, most of the contestants did, evidenced by most of them not knowing how much it cost to produce each meal, and no contestant was profitable in the challenge). I also think Joey, of Brooklyn Meatball Co., is one of the weakest.


Cheryl: Grill'Billies or Spice Coast. The Grill'Billies concept seems like it would work really well across the U.S., but Spice Coast is so different from the usual fast food fare. The investors sure have a tough and tasty choice to make.

Danielle: Sudhir of Spice Coast seems to have his head together the most. His food has won over many contestants and the judges, and he has consistently shown fairly good decision making skills. Next week's challenge is feeding children, so he could suffer there--I'm not entirely sure Indian cuisine will win kids' hearts. Grill'Billies probably has the most universal appeal, but I imagine meatballs would have quite a bit as well. Still, my head and my heart are saying it will be down to Spice Coast and Grill'Billies. I think I'd like to see Spice Coast win because it would be so different from what is currently available, but big part of me is thinking Grill'Billies is going to pull off the win.

-- Cheryl Sadler | | @nhcheryl
and Danielle Capriato |

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Blogger Ray said...

Episode 7 was really interesting and the challenge was pretty difficult. I don’t know if a kids menu is always the first thing to go through a restaurant owners head when getting things started. I think Joseph did a great job with his smashed turkey meatball sliders. I have to admit the concept even had me wanting to try those out myself. I missed out on this episode when it was aired but thanks to my job at Dish Network I was able to go on and stream it on my laptop without even logging in. I was really surprised when it came time to send a team home but I won’t ruin it. You should check it out for yourself!

April 18, 2011 at 10:12 PM 

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