This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Last Restaurant Standing

This is a reality TV show on BBC America. It is now in its second season.

I love this show. The premise is that there are eight couples (father-daughter, husband-wife, gay couple, etc.) who compete to win their own restaurant.

This is not Hell's Kitchen. This is not Top Chef.

This is almost documentary like in just the way it is shot.

There is no fighting between couples, only within the couples does one see any agitation or emotion.

It's a show about couples who have a dream of owning and running their own restaurant. And most of the 'contestants' are home cooks, caterers, or something else that has little or nothing to do with a professional career in the culinary arts.

The main "character" is Raymond Blanc, a world-renowned chef (that I had never heard of until I watched the first season). He is amazing because he is not cruel. He is not mean. He does not yell. But he is head strong in the fact that when he offers a restaurant to the winner, it is a business deal. So he means business: the food must be good, the food must look good, the ingredients must be fresh, and most importantly, your food will need to make money for your restaurant.

Raymond Blanc is so French that they have to, sometimes, add subtitles to his English because his accent is *so* strong. This is one reason why I love this show. It's *so* opposite of America's version of reality TV. The guy can barely be understood! He's not yelling (and don't be mislead, I am a Gordon Ramsey fan -- but more on his BBC America shows and not the American ones). He is not angry. He is not especially good-looking *for typical television*.

His sidekicks, Sarah Willingham and David Moore, are industry experts. They, too, are not typical images for American TV. Sarah is beautiful but, larger, than any American counterpart; and well, David Moore is not an amazing looker either.

And that is what works for me. REAL people.

And if this season is like last season, these people are all about making their restaurant concept work.

Raymond Blanc gives the eight couples eight keys to various locations throughout England to create their own restaurant. They have to design the interior and their menu. They are tasked to market their restaurant and bring enough people in to make money. Sarah and David come around to each restaurant, checking up on them as they prepare for their week's opening night. And they also try the food out and then report back to Raymond Blanc with results of profits for the night, quality of food, and how the front of house handled any problems.

There is usually a task of the week that Raymond has them focus on for their opening night. The three restaurants that fare poorly are then given a challenge, whether it be provide their spin on a TV dinner, or create a meal for fast food that is tasty. One couple who fails to meet Raymond Blanc's requirements will be sent home and their restaurant will close.

The great thing about the challenge? The three couples will get the help from the remaining "safe" couples to win the challenge.

And those "safe" couples? They actually help. They actually help with passion and fervor, as though is it their own butts that are on the line.

There is no drama of back-stabbing and gossiping. There is no sabotaging of another team's challenge. It is truly team work and when couples do end up losing their restaurant, most of the safe couples end up in tears.

BBC has it right. I love most of their line-up of shows. Kitchen Nightmares ON BBC is an amazing show. On American TV? Not so much. Actually, it's pretty lame.

Last Restaurant Standing airs on BBC America on Tuesdays @ 9PM. If you want to catch the rerun from the previous week, it airs @ 8PM, an hour before the new episode.

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