Grilled cheese, meatballs bid for "Next Great Restaurant"

LOS ANGELES Fri Mar 4, 2011 4:02pm EST

The hosts of the new NBC reality series ''America's Next Great Restaurant'' which premieres March 6, 2011 (L-R) Chipotle founder Steve Ells, chef Bobby Flay, Latina chef Lorena Garcia and ''Biggest Loser'' resident chef Curtis Stone are shown in this undated publicity photograph. They are putting up their own money to finance the concept they judge to have the best chance of commercial success. REUTERS/Mitchell Haaseth/NBC/ © NBC Universal, Inc./Handout

The hosts of the new NBC reality series ''America's Next Great Restaurant'' which premieres March 6, 2011 (L-R) Chipotle founder Steve Ells, chef Bobby Flay, Latina chef Lorena Garcia and ''Biggest Loser'' resident chef Curtis Stone are shown in this undated publicity photograph. They are putting up their own money to finance the concept they judge to have the best chance of commercial success.

Credit: Reuters/Mitchell Haaseth/NBC/ © NBC Universal, Inc./Handout

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Love "Top Chef," but always wanted to actually taste the food?

Book a reservation at "America's Next Great Restaurant", a reality TV competition series starting on NBC on Sunday that will turn the kernel of an original, fast casual dining idea into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in three U.S. cities.

The concept could call for an establishment making grilled cheese sandwiches for grown-ups, traditional Indian food in take-away form, Asian wok cuisine or Italian meatballs.

At the end of the TV series, four experienced chefs and restaurateurs will literally put their money where their mouths are and invest in the winning idea and the person behind it.

"This show is about the American dream," said "Iron Chef" celebrity restaurateur Bobby Flay. "And it doesn't stop at the end of the TV show. The winner gets three restaurants across the country, in Hollywood, New York City and Minneapolis.

Flay, Chipotle founder Steve Ells, Latina chef Lorena Garcia and "Biggest Loser" resident chef Curtis Stone are putting up their own money to finance the concept they judge to have the best chance of commercial success.

The TV show revolves around 10 people from all walks of life who develop their concepts for a fast casual chain through weekly business and cooking challenges over nine episodes.

"This is not a show about copying other restaurant concepts but a show about their ideas. The challenges are not set up to watch people fail. We want them to succeed," Ells told reporters.

"We are not looking for perfection in very single task. But when the winner is (in business) on their own, they are going to have to think on their own."

Ells and his fellow investors will also act as mentors to the contestants. They declined to say how much of their own money they are putting into the new venture, but producers say the investment is over the long term.

"America's Next Great Restaurant" comes from the Emmy-award winning producers behind reality shows like "Project Runway", "Top Chef" and "Work of Art".

"At the end of the day, Americans are going to be able to go out and taste the food," said executive producer Jane Lipsitz, who created the TV show with business partner Dan Cutforth.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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