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Feb 8, 2008 01:49 PM

Last Restaurant Standing - BBC America

Anyone catch this last night? The premise is like tons of reality shows we've seen before where people compete and get booted off by a cast of self-righteous judges. The twist in this show is that couples are each given a restaurant to run somewhere in Oxfordshire. Some are in trendy neighborhoods, others in small villages so each team must tweak their restaurant to their surroundings.

Last night's episode introduced the couples (married, newlyweds, mother and son, sisters, brothers, etc.). Each received £5,000 to prep their restaurants and hire staff. After the first night's dinner service, the couples returned to meet the judges (headed by Raymond Blanc, a Michelin starred chef based in the UK) and basically get reamed. Three couples were chosen to go into Blanc's "challenge" after which one couple will be asked to leave.

Given the variety of cooking competition shows around, do we really need this one? Compared to Next Food Network Star this show is outstanding. Both shows take amateur chefs and put them on the firing line. Where Last Restaurant excels is showing the difficulties amateurs would face in following their passion for cooking. It's grittier and more "real" than NFNS and, at least in my case, you feel a little more for the competitors. Looking forward to see how this show unravels.

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  1. I missed the Thursday preview, but caught a quick ad on BBC today.
    At least it will be two hours of original programming on Tuesday night.
    A prison caterer (Huh?).
    But I like the second test of the lowest three. In concept, at least.

    1. I hope I'm not the only person watching this. It's not about the food, yet. But it is about getting organized and thinking ahead.
      Some couples are disasters. Some aren't.
      But the inspector who found she'd eaten a piece of chicken which came from a breast that was woefully undercooked, then went into the ladies room to throw up what she had eaten. They take their undercooked chicken VERY seriously.
      The birthday party clothes were a hoot.
      I do wish they had subtitles for some of the accents. (Same problems as Kitchen Nightmares.)
      But it's not violent, not preachy and has pretty pictures of England and some food that looks interesting.
      I've lots of worse ways to waste an hour.

      3 Replies
      1. re: shallots

        It was 2 hours, but point made. I generally prefer BBC reality shows to American ones . They seem to be less shrill and aggressive. My one problem with the format, and this goes for most reality contest shows, is that in the beginning there isn't enough time to get to "know" contestants before they are kicked off. Sometimes the first ones gone look the most interesting.

        I hope future episodes focus more on food now that the restaurants' identities have been somewhat established. Oh, and I liked the light classical music in the background. I'll be tuning in again.

        1. re: shallots

          BBC America generally does offer closed captions on it's shows, but that feature needs to be turned on on your television. I made it home a little late last night and didn't get to watch most of the first hour, but I hope to be able to catch an entire episode next week.

          1. re: LabRat

            I really enjoy the closed captioning notices BBCA has been running before some of their shows--"The accents you are about to hear would be much more understandable if you hadnt thrown all out tea in Boston Harbour" and the like.

        2. It's original title over here in the UK was simply "The Restaurant". As the OP says, it is like loads of other reality shows. As with other shows, there will be folk you come hate, detest - and hope they die a horrible death from eating their own food.

          I know what you mean about the accents. I can't understand the American woman. But then, I guess it's like when I visit the US, I am often asked if I'm from New Zealand (which is a bit odd for someone from north west England.

          I watched it just for Blanc who is a food hero in the way Ramsey could never hope to aspire to.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            There was an Australian show with a similar concept about 10 years ago (my goodness, was it REALLY that long ago - it seems like yesterday!) except that they gave each couple a restaurant in a different part of the country and they never brought them together into the same room.
            I watched this eagerly - it seems like an entertaining hour. I wish they'd put the one couple out of their misery though - they so utterly clueless they couldn't buy a clue if you gave them a thousand bucks. And it's a shame that they're only showing one hour a week after the first night - it would be more interesting to see the challenge followed through in one week instead of two.

          2. I really like the premise. While there are some professionals (a royal marine cook, a prison cook, caterers) there are also folks that simply think of themselves as good cooks that have always wanted to have a go at opening up a restaurant - like some of us, I'm sure. This isn't about becoming a TV star, or about a schooled chef getting his own new restaurant - it's purely about the amateur dream. My friends and relatives all think I'm a great cook and are always saying I should open up a place - what if I did?

            The teams are 2 people - husband and wife, friends, twins, mom and son, one is FOH and the other, BOH, the chef. That's an interesting dynamic. Some of these teams have excellent cooks, but the FOH person is just a complete loser - others, the other way around. Maybe half way through, there is Trump/Apprentice type shuffle and the good guys pair up to form truly formidable teams.

            The process is somewhat convoluted. Like Kajikit said, the waiting for 2 shows to eliminate someone (the first show is a major competition, followed the next week, by the three losing teams getting a challenge) is a slow process. But I'm also left wanting for more details through the competition process - so squeezing it all into one hour would not do at all.

            The drummer/musician is such loser as a chef that he has got to go. His blaming the sous he hired, (actually the acting chef, as the musician guy does nothing but set up his drums), was such an act of ignorance and/or stupidity. He knows how ineffective he is, but that doesn't mean he should stay - it's not that he can't get any better in the short time he has, but that he appears not to want to. That's too bad, as his wife, as chatty as she is, is a very good hostess and FOH person.

            I was really happy to see the Ghanian couple do well this time around. It's good to see different foods getting accepted so well.

            The two guy friends - are they gay? My gaydar just doesn't work for Brits, they all knock the needle off the meter... anyway, they have done well for two shows in a row. But I get the feeling that the reason the FOH guy doesn't smile is that he really doesn't want to be doing this at all.

            8 Replies
            1. re: applehome

              I've been enjoying the show as well - and I agree about the musician w/ the American actress wife - couldn't believe the scene where he fired the sous chef!!

              1. re: MMRuth

                I could.....he's got to blame somebody for things not going well and he's sure not going to take the blame himself! I didn't think the sous chef was doing that bad of a job in the kitchen. "The Ostrich" needs to close and I think it will.

                I watched him trying to slice the leeks and cringed. I'm not trained in any cooking methods by I can prep better than that! His knife skills were terrible. He's got no business in the kitchen. And what was up with the last minute dash to the store? The editing is pretty free-form but it appeared he devised the new menu and THEN went shopping for it. Seems he should have had all supplies on hand before announcing the new menu.

                It appears the focus for "The Ostrich" is to play jazz music. Both nights plus the first challenge were focusing more on the music then the food. I say scrap the restaurant approach and go for a jazz bar. Serve upscale starters and have a decent bar. What's wrong with that?

                1. re: Dee S

                  "What's wrong with that?" Just that it wouldn't fit what the show and competition is looking for. It's a good observation - this couple may have had something different in mind (at least the guy did), and, in fact, he might be good at it - play a couple of sets, hobnob with the glitteratti, hire a chef in a small kitchen that makes pub grub/tapas, make bongo bucks on the bar. But given that the format requires that he at least manage the BOH, if not actually be the chef, and that they operate as a full restaurant, I think they're sunk.

                  1. re: applehome

                    You're right applehome....I forgot they have to operate as a full restaurant. Maybe I was trying to generously give them the benefit of the doubt by going in that direction. I think they would be successful at a smaller venture as there seems to be the desire to achieve.

                    MMRuth, I think you were very clear earlier and agree with your point below. The sous did the best he could based on what he had. He really wasn't given much.

                    Rajat, I agree completely with your last point. I know the last challenge had the balance of the contestants helping out but it would be VERY interesting to see what The Ostrich's kitchen produces with a new sous.

                    I can't wait to see what the challenge is!

                  2. re: Dee S

                    In case it wasn't clear - I agree w/ you completely - he seemed so ridiculous firing the guy who, IMHO, was doing his best to save his behind!

                    1. re: Dee S

                      The thing is, I'm not exactly sure that he wasn't right in firing the guy. But, not because the disaster was the poor sous chef's fault, but because Sam needs to hire a real head chef, and stop pretending he's got anything to do with the kitchen. Of course, that's probably against what the show is about, so it's not a possibility.

                      What is disgusting is the way he fired the poor guy, and how all the problems were blamed on him. Again, what he should have said is "hey, I need to hire a real head chef, and I'm afraid you're not it. But thanks for everything you tried to do."

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      What I couldn't believe was when he pushed back on his client who didn't want to have a jazz band at her catered event. The fact that they hadn't fully discussed the music at the event, but he already signed a contract with a jazz band was not the client's problem and I couldn't believe how rudely he behaved.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        So, on a different site, the lady who owns the restaurant (with her husband) that was temporarily closed to house The Ostrich, posted about what happened. If you are interested, search for The Allium, Ostrich. The lady's name is Erica Graham. One of the other regulars on the forum was one of the guests in the show (and actually appeared in the televised version) and he posts his experience too. Hilarious.

                        I never really trust that what they show on a reality show actually approximates reality. Editing can make white appear black. In this case, however, the reality apparently was more chaotic than what we saw. Sam was really setting up his drum kit in front of the guests while they waited for food and watched the head chef not cooking. People really refused to pay. Wow!!

                    3. I enjoy this show. The American actress needs to drink less coffee maybe. :)

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: melly

                        The actress was American? I'm so mortified. She seemed to be one of the sweet young brainless things in search of a Benny Hill.
                        Yes, their being gone could not happen soon enough.

                        Last night I saw mention that Ramsey's Hells Kitchen will be back this spring; after this (relatively) calm show, I'm not sure I could stand thirty minutes of Ramsay.

                        I wish BBC would post menus (at a minimum) on their site.

                        1. re: shallots

                          It is not Dru Masters. It is from Amélie the soundtrack to the French Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated motion picture Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie). The track at the end of the show is #4 Comptine D'un Autre Ete: L'Apres Midi.