Skip to main content

Restaurant Wars: An Advance Review of Season Three of BBC America's "Last Restaurant Standing"

I've long been captivated by BBC America's culinary competition series, Last Restaurant Standing (a.k.a. The Restaurant in the UK), which returns with its third season tonight.

While Last Restaurant Standing returns tonight, the series is a slightly different beast than in its two previous iterations. While chef/restaurateur Raymond Blanc and judges Sarah Willingham and David Moore all return and the overall premise of the series--"couples" compete to open their own restaurant--remains the same, there's something slightly different going on here.

For one, Last Restaurant Standing's format has changed, reducing the episode count and sucking out some of the series' nail-biting tension. In the UK, previous seasons of the competition series aired twice a week, with one episode devoted to the couples running their individual restaurants, amid frequent complications sprung on them by Raymond Blanc, and the second devoted to the Challenge, a gauntlet of fire through which the worst-performing couples would be run and by which one couple would be eliminated.

The Challenge is, rather sadly, gone. I always thought that it was one of the more interesting arenas for the series, forcing the contestants to adapt to any situation (sometimes quite mad ones) and really think on their toes. It was a good metric for understanding just how adaptable, intelligent, and determined each of the couples were, pushing them even further out of their comfort zone and forcing them to come to accept the harsh realities of the restaurant business. After all, it's not just dinner parties and shopping for ingredients at farm stores.

In the two episodes provided for review by BBC America, the new version of Last Restaurant Standing therefore places much more emphasis on the overall concept of the couples' individual restaurants and on their skills on line and in front of house. However, it's hard to judge the week-to-week tension and drama of the series as the couples don't actually move into their restaurant spaces until Week Three.

But that's not to say that the couples aren't under a great deal of strain in the first two episodes, because they are. The first episode finds them more or less auditioning for Raymond Blanc himself, as they are put into teams of three couples and tasked with organizing a three-course menu, with each couple responsible for creating a dish (starter, main, or dessert) that sums up their restaurant's concept. The second installment has the couples working on the line in a three of Britain's high street chain restaurants. It's a task that proves that many of them are ill-equipped to be running a place of their own and several seem to have little understanding of the amount of diligence, organization, and hard work necessary to run an endeavor such as that.

And, yes, some of the contestants engage in behavior that is outright shocking. Mother and daughter team Sandy and Natalie's attempts to open cans using a very sharp chef's knife (rather than, you know, a can opener) is so jaw-dropping and terrifying that Raymond is forced to take action from the start and actually intervene before one of them loses a finger. It's an eye-opening start to the season and one that makes me question the sanity of several of these contestants. Did they really not know what they were getting into? Had they never seen the series before? What did they expect that they would be doing?

There are a few that are worth keeping an eye on. One couple in particular seems extremely strong while another has a restaurant concept that is quite original... and mind-boggling at the same time.

All in all, a good start for what promises to be a fun season of Last Restaurant Standing but which so far lacks the same level of spark and heat of the last two seasons. Still, I'll be tuning in every Tuesday night to see just who walks away with their own restaurant...

Season Three of Last Restaurant Standing premieres tonight at 9 pm ET/PT on BBC America.


Bella Spruce said…
I'm sad that this season will be shorter and that they are no longer doing the challenges. It was good to see the teams interact with each other and they always came up with challenges that were fun and interesting too. Oh, well.
Chris said…
I've already seen the season and it's very much off from the past two. A lot of the elements are there but the BBC budget cuts that must have happened behind the scenes really affected things. The lack of the Challenge really makes a difference. I'll be interested to read your take as the show progresses.

Popular posts from this blog

What's Done is Done: The Eternal Struggle Between Good and Evil on the Season Finale of "Lost"

Every story begins with thread. It's up to the storyteller to determine just how much they need to parcel out, what pattern they're making, and when to cut it short and tie it off. With last night's penultimate season finale of Lost ("The Incident, Parts One and Two"), written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we began to see the pattern that Lindelof and Cuse have been designing towards the last five seasons of this serpentine series. And it was only fitting that the two-hour finale, which pushes us on the road to the final season of Lost , should begin with thread, a loom, and a tapestry. Would Jack follow through on his plan to detonate the island and therefore reset their lives aboard Oceanic Flight 815 ? Why did Locke want to kill Jacob? What caused The Incident? What was in the box and just what lies in the shadow of the statue? We got the answers to these in a two-hour season finale that didn't quite pack the same emotional wallop of previous seas

Katie Lee Packs Her Knives: Breaking News from Bravo's "Top Chef"

The android has left the building. Or the test kitchen, anyway. Top Chef 's robotic host Katie Lee Joel, the veritable "Uptown Girl" herself (pictured at left), will NOT be sticking around for a second course of Bravo's hit culinary competition. According to a well-placed insider, Joel will "not be returning" to the show. No reason for her departure was cited. Unfortunately, the perfect replacement for Joel, Top Chef judge and professional chef Tom Colicchio, will not be taking over as the reality series' host (damn!). Instead, the show's producers are currently scouring to find a replacement for Joel. Top Chef 's second season was announced by Bravo last month, but no return date has been set for the series' ten-episode sophomore season. Stay tuned as this story develops. UPDATE (6/27): Bravo has now confirmed the above story .

Me Want Food: Jenna Gets Famously Fat on "30 Rock"

I don't know about you, but I've already ordered my "Me Want Food" t-shirt from the NBC store. Last night's episode of 30 Rock ("Jack Gets in the Game") was, in my opinion, one of the strongest of the series and has officially pushed the zany comedy into the realm of Arrested Development : deftly plotted and intricately layered, with so many jokes piled atop of jokes that it requires several viewings in order to catch them all. While at its heart, 30 Rock is a workplace comedy, it's left that narrow pigeonhole behind to become a witty example of how intelligent and taut humor can work (and flourish) on television... and exist in harmony with hilarious throwaways like the Thriller -inspired Werewolf Bar Mitzvah music video that would have done the AD crew proud. I want Will Arnett to appear on this series whenever possible. His gay exec Devin is hilarious, manipulative, and has an inexplicable weakness for Kenneth the Page, but he claims to have