Restaurant dream not easy to achieve, says Jock
OUR insatiable appetite for cooking programs appears to show no sign of waning with two new food series going head-to-head on our screens.
But what sets Seven's Restaurant Revolution apart is the chance for viewers to get a real taste of the action with the pop-up restaurants featured already open for business as the series rolls.
The grand openings of the five restaurants will feature on air tonight.
Host Jock Zonfrillo opened up to The Guide about the interactive show.
"Everybody loves food. There's no question about it. And everybody loves watching food programs. This one is a little bit different in that you can actually interact with it and get involved and that's what one of the things that I really love about it," he said.
"You could go to one of the restaurants and have lunch today and tweet about it and it could be part of the show this week and that adds a whole different dynamic of reality to the show. It's not something that happened six months ago."
Five teams get the chance to turn their idea for a restaurant into a money-making reality. They are responsible for designing decor, devising menus, marketing, staffing and service before opening their doors to the paying public.
Each week they are judged by experts - award-winning chef Neil Perry, restaurant owner and consultant Erez Gordon, brand and social media strategist Jess Ho, critic and food editor John Lethlean, a secret critic, their customers and their profit margin.
Not just a cooking competition, the contestants' business game needs to be as strong as their skills in the kitchen if they hope to turn a profit and take home the $200,000.
It's familiar territory for the 38-year-old host who can relate to what they're dealing with from personal experience.
A chef for 23 years, he has worked in restaurants around the world including for the formidable Marco Pierre White in London before settling here and opening a kitchen renovation and refurbishment business.
Two restaurants of his own soon followed in Adelaide.
"There is a lot going on with managing the business side to the food and dealing with critics and the like but that's real life. In restaurants we have to deal with that. From my perspective as an industry professional it's very true to what you'd see when opening a restaurant yourself for real.
"To top it off they're on TV so there's a huge amount of pressure. They will be stressed; there will be tears, laughter, joy."
He suspected that teams with a strong emotional connection to their project would be the hardest hit by criticisms of their restaurant, regardless of how constructive.
This is another element which he has first-hand experience of, having had the show's resident food critic (Lethlean) visit his own restaurants in the past. But he was quick to quash any suggestion of friction between the two from their real-life dealings beforehand.
"Contrary to popular belief - John and I are great friends. There seems to be a huge raft of rumours around myself and John which both of us find hilarious," he said.
"This is going to be quite a journey... it's immediately viewable in my opinion and unlike any other food program on TV at the moment."
Restaurant Revolution airs tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 7.