If you're a fan of the "quick casual" restaurant, i.e. that crossover somewhere between fast food and sit-down dining, you may want to consider setting your DVR to record America's Next Great Restaurant, the latest food competition show premiering next Sunday, March 6, on NBC.
This isn't about "cheftestants" (a word we loathe anyway) trying to out-gastronomize each other for top spot, nor are they "chopped," nor will they (necessarily) become the next Food Network stars. The cooks on this show share the simple dream of becoming a chain restaurateur, and each has the gimmick they believe will go franchise. All they need is the money.
That's where judges Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia and Chipotle founder Steve Ells come in. These four will not only be choosing which budding businessperson will win the cash prize to start their restaurant, they'll also be providing that very start-up capital. Yes, in an interesting competition show twist, the judges are actually the investors as well.
So what kind of stand-in-line restaurant might we have to look forward to? Well, some of the contestants' ideas have already come to pass, such as a chicken and waffles restaurant, (check) and the "grown-up grilled cheese" (check, check.) However, some propositions sound more promising, including Wok - Stirfry for the Healthy Heart, Kabob Sliders (which just intrigues us - which is it?) and the Italian favorite, Saucy Balls. Hopefully the judges will be as optimistic considering they're, quite literally, putting their money where their mouth is.
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In the meantime, as a promo for the show, Chipotle is giving away two burritos for the price of one for a limited time. Get your coupon here.