February 10th, 2011
06:55 PM ET
Celebrity chef and restaurant owner Bobby Flay believes that just about every American has one thing in common: an idea for a great restaurant.
"The restaurant business is about the people who have the drive to make their eateries work," Flay says. "Anyone can make a good pitch, but do they have the personality and drive to make it work and grow?"
That's the concept of "America's Next Great Restaurant," a reality competition show premiering March 6 on NBC. Each week, Flay and three other judges - Chipotle founder Steve Ells and chefs Curtis Stone and Lorena Garcia - will mentor contestants who each have their own restaurant concepts. The winner will see their concept come to life with a three-restaurant chain financially backed by the four judges.
"We're not just judges, we're investors," Ells says. "We have a strong interest in making sure that the person who wins this will be successful. They're not just winning a three-restaurant chain, but the opportunity to grow that chain and make it more valuable."
Flay says contestants will have to show more than just a great concept to win.
"We challenge the contestants on what it takes to run a successful restaurant. You'll see cooking challenges, but you might also see them tested on menu creation, uniform development and finding the right slogan. These are real-life issues when it comes to opening a restaurant."
Adds Ells, "The challenges help us understand the character of the contestants. We want to determine how passionate they are about the restaurant business."
Both men say that it takes a special person to compete on this show. "If you just want to be on TV, you're out," Flay warns. "A successful contestant is one that's driven to spend the rest of their career in the restaurant business."
Flay, whose busy schedule includes running 11 restaurants in the U.S. and the Bahamas as well as his Food Network shows, saw "America's Next Great Restaurant" as a chance to give back.
"I've spent my entire life in the restaurant business," he says. "I dropped out of high school, went to work in a restaurant and I've been in the business ever since. I feel like I'm giving back for all I've done. I want to pass down what I've learned."
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