Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Restaurant Standing

-leave your own
This might seem like an unsolicited advertisement, but I just have to dish about the follow-up season to last year's Last Restaurant Standing on BBC America. Yes, it's yet another elimination reality show. Yes, it features yet another high-profile chef doling out criticism and advice. Yes, their accents are British. Yes, there are contrived "challenges" that the contestants compete in.

What is truly great about the show is a marathon of the back-of-house trials, frustrations and small victories of running a fledgling restaurant. One thing is clear after watching a few episodes is that running a new restaurant is insanely hard. Even with the [financial] support of the BBC and built-in buzz of a locally filmed television show, it is tough to get people through the door and seemingly impossible to get a good staff.

The most compelling and surprising part of the show is the personality of Chef Raymond Blanc. Where other shows would try to bank on the bombastic, abrasive, combative, or sensational behavior of a high-profile host, our Chef Blanc is even-tempered, honest, professional, kind, and always willing to impart his vast knowledge to all of the contestants. Some of the conversations he conducts with the contestants are riveting, as he really gives them a chance to make their case for survival on the show. His personality is in stark contrast to that of Chef Gordon Ramsay, though Ramsay really is no less helpful in his consultations on Kitchen Nightmares.

Whereas Ramsay maintains a maverick posture, Blanc employs a team of culinary spies, each providing Blanc with intel from the field. Each of them are employed by Blanc in his various culinary enterprises, and their rapport and professional relationships are interesting to behold in this arena. Respect goes both ways, which is another thing lacking in reality shows.

If you are interested in the art of restaurants, food, or business and can get past the forced format of elimination and challenges, watch this show.

The show starts up again this Tuesday at 8pm on BBC America.

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