Hélène Bourgeois Leclerc is a foodie assumed and Vincent Dion-Lavallée is a passionate chef restaurateur. Together, they animate the culinary competition Restaurantduring which 12 participants take on tough challenges in order to prove that they are ready to open their own establishment.
While most culinary competitions take place in the studio, Restaurant offers a different concept by taking place in a real establishment: the Hoogan and Beaufort, in Montreal. “Each episode is built in two stages: first there is the Creation Challenge, which could be to concoct appetizers or a dish to share, for example. All candidates must accept this challenge and the competition is quite high, since they all work in the restaurant industry and wish to win the grand prize of $50,000 in order to open their own restaurant”, underlines Hélène Bourgeois Leclerc, visibly in her place as host of this show.
“After the Creation Challenge, we select the three candidates who have shown themselves the least well,” she continues. This can be for a multitude of reasons: chaotic management of their time, non-compliance with instructions, stress… It’s not just about making their meal a success! In the evening, these three candidates finally participate in the Grand Service, with real customers, in a real restaurant. They have the chance to test their creation and take the pulse of the population! Will their dish be popular with customers? The participant with the best evaluation will be saved by the customers, a second will be saved by my colleague, Vincent, and the third will have to leave the adventure.
Behind the scenes
Chef restaurateur Vincent Dion-Lavallée is at the heart of the action, since he accompanies the participants in the kitchen during the Grand service. “Some are very excited to take up this challenge, he underlines. They see it as a unique opportunity to test their dish with a real clientele. Others are more stressed, because this opportunity still comes with the possibility of being eliminated. Among the 12 participants, each has their strengths, whether it is a well-established culinary DNA, mise en place, product management or service.”
“What I find very interesting in this culinary competition is that viewers have access to behind the scenes of the restaurant. For example, they will witness an element that is rarely discussed on television: determining the price of dishes. We can create a unique signature dish, but if customers are not ready to pay $65 a plate, the restaurant will go bankrupt! Several participants have a somewhat “romantic” vision of restoration. They imagine themselves spending their time creating dishes, when in fact, being a restaurateur requires a lot of management”, explains Vincent with lucidity.
The three Grand Service participants offer customers a menu including a starter, a main course and a dessert. It is only when the orders are placed that they find out how many dishes they will have to cook. “If there are 50 customers in the restaurant, one participant may end up with 30 orders, while the other two have 15 and 5 orders respectively! The stress management is rather intense, because whoever has the most orders must offer dishes of the same quality to his customers, whether it is the 1st or the 30th to leave the kitchen. I can assure you that some are hot… and it’s not because of the stoves!” Vincent comments.
Even though it’s a competition, there’s a lot of mutual support in the kitchen. “If a participant has only received five orders, they help others, after they have finished their plates. Fellowship is one of the fundamental values of the restaurant business. In the kitchen, everyone helps each other, because customer satisfaction is more important than anything!”
► The show Restaurant will be presented at Zeste starting Thursday, August 18 at 9 p.m.