Zakarian makes his ‘Big Restaurant Bet’ in Food Net series

'Big Restaurant Bet' - Zakarian seeks to back a chef with potential

Geoffrey Zakarian

Anyone considering opening a restaurant will get a soup-to-nuts primer on it from Geoffrey Zakarian in a competition series currently airing on Food Network.

On “Big Restaurant Bet,” airing Tuesdays (and also streaming on discovery+), the renowned chef and restaurateur presents eight talented chefs with the opportunity to take the next step in their culinary career and open their own restaurant.

But first they have to prove that their idea is worth his investment and resources. So in addition to demonstrating their culinary chops, they also have to sell Zakarian on their vision, their business sense and themselves and convince him that they are the right fit for him and his restaurant group. The winner gets his $250,000 investment to get things going.

“It’s almost like ‘Iron Chef’ Meets ‘The Prophet,’ ” Zakarian explains, “whereby you want to have a profitable restaurant and you’re really talented but you just can’t get out of your own way, you don’t have the skill set. You have the tenacity and the passion but you don’t have the skill set.”

“So (on a scale of one to 10), we’ll pick someone who’s like … a seven or an eight to bring them to a 10,’ ” he continues. “There’s people that are fives and sixes and are stunningly good, they’re just not ready. … But you’re never really ready. Like you’re never really ready to have a baby, right? Then you have a baby and like all of a sudden nature kicks in and you start doing stuff and it works. So there are similarities there but there is no such thing as a perfectly ready person. I mean, I’m not perfectly ready and I’ve been doing it for 40 years.”

While the chefs will try to impress Zakarian, his wife and business partner Margaret Zakarian and chef Eric Haugen with their culinary creations, Zakarian will quiz them about their business acumen. So knowledge in areas such as marketing, budgeting, menu creation and managing people is advantageous.

And while there is no such thing as the perfect candidate, Zakarian will take someone on if he sees certain qualities in them.

“We can work with a B-minus with a great attitude and an amazing passion,” he says. “If you don’t have passion and great attitude, I don’t care if you’re an A-plus, there’s not going to be a chance that we’re going to work with you.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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