America's Next Great Restaurant premieres on NBC on March 6, 2011. The show starts with the contestants each giving the judges and investors (Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia, and Steve Ells) a pitch for their restaurant idea. They have to cook and present a dish, give the judges a menu, and give an overall idea of the restaurant. The judges are looking for fast casual food that is a step up from fast food, using fresh ingredients in a unique way. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that some people are in over their heads as they present unusual ideas or even good ideas that are not fully thought out. As each of the initial twenty-one people selected to start the show have finished their presentations the judges must decide whether it is an idea they might want to invest in, should the contestant win the show. Nine of the choices are easy for the judges, but they cannot choose a tenth and ask two of the contestants to come back and show them more. Eventually a tenth contestant is chosen to continue.
One of the things that happens right away is that you, as the audience, began second-guessing the judges. You think "I'd eat that" or frown in disgust. You find yourself looking for qualities you'd want in a restaurant, or restaurant owner, and making up your own mind. It is interesting how even though you have no idea who these people really are, you start having favorites from among them pretty early on. It is because the show presents them as people who are trying to do something with their lives that we are able to root them on, even if only from in front of our television sets.
The dynamics of the ten ideas selected to continue encompass many different styles of food and it will be interesting to see which ones are able to really appeal to the judges. in addition to the food, each contestant must show they can deal with the sort of situations that restaurant owners see every day - from the business side to dealing with staff. This show has the potential to keep America engrossed even as it possibly finds it a new restaurant to enjoy.
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