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NBC cooks up a new food reality show with a big prize

by Allison Waldman, posted Nov 19th 2009 2:30PM
nbc_logo_colorOkay, take the idea of Shark Tank (or Dragon's Den if you're a BBC America fan), mix it with the Top Chef folks, offer a great grand prize and hope for the best. That's the recipe behind NBC's new food competition show, United Plates of America. The network is turning to the Magical Elves from Top Chef -- no, seriously, that's the production company's name -- to succeed in the food field where NBC has flopped in the past. Remember The Chopping Block? Remember Rocco DiSpirito's The Restaurant? NBC has more luck with the dieters on The Biggest Loser.

This go-round is not about a single restaurant. It's about a chain of restaurants. To me, that's a questionable goal. Most successful chains start off with one great restaurant and then take off. This concept is go big or go home. Maybe it's more complicated, but it doesn't sound that way.

Competitors on United Plates of America -- clever title -- will present their plans for a chain to a group of wealth investors from the food business. They'll have challenges to create concepts, menus and staffing. So there's a little of The Apprentice in there, too.

The top prize is not one restaurant, but four. In different American cities. All opening on the same night. The finale. Ambitious? Yes. Will it work? Who knows. It certainly doesn't sound like they'll be going for fine dining. It seems more like The Olive Garden than Lutece. Still, it's a huge prize for a reality show.

But the Top Chef team gives it some clout, even though this quote from executive producer Dan Cutforth made me wonder about the quality of the food they're going for: "It's a culinary competition that anybody can take part in. All you need is a great idea for a restaurant." A great idea is a great idea; but shouldn't you have to be able to cook to run a restaurant? Isn't that something that most chain owners should know.

Perhaps not. It's possible that Dave Thomas didn't know how to flip burgers before he started Wendy's. However, Colonel Sanders did have his secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Well, if NBC is successful with United Plates of America, all bets are off. Maybe Jay Leno should enter the competition... he already has an "in" with NBC.

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I hope more marketing experts exert efforts like this to help people with great ideas like the Shark Tank TV Show (http://www.SharkTankTVShow.com) that provide financial assistance and expert's advice to small entrepreneurs, which is great for the economy.

January 27 2010 at 3:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What in the world has happened to the Peacock network?
If you're going to go the reality route, how about involving a charity that feeds the hungry. The teams design and open the restaurants and for the first month-food for the people that have none, perhaps jobs as well.

November 19 2009 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

interesting concept, but what are the chances (in this economy) of keeping this kind of business afloat after NBC has packed up and gone home?
Seems like creating a couple hundred jobs , giving people hope only to dissolve that hope when the "show" is over.

And do any of these contestants have experience running a restaurant from the startup?

November 19 2009 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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