Restaurant Express, Season 1: Top Moments of the Premiere
Get an inside look at the contestants' challenges and relive the most-memorable moments from the premiere of Food Network's Restaurant Express, Season 1.
Photo By: Paul-Michael Carr ©Paul-Michael Carr
Concept on Display
It's day one of Restaurant Express, but before the contestants begin their road trip, Robert explains that to receive a bus seat, they'll need to successfully pitch him their ultimate restaurant concept. "You each have to see yourself and your vision to me," he tells the rivals.
As a single mother of seven children, Jan is used to quality from-scratch cooking at home, so her restaurant notion is simple: "exquisite comfort food." She explains to Robert, "You don't have to make it fancy to make it fabulous." And Robert tells her later, "I got your concept very clearly," before awarding her a seat on the bus.
Despite his confidence, Adam's pitch falls short when he tells Robert, "I believe that I can keep a [restaurant's] food cost at about 18 percent." For Robert, this is nearly impossible, as he explains to Adam: "If you're going to run an 18 percent food cost, I'll be visiting you on another show. It's called Restaurant: Impossible."
The journey ultimately proves to be a short one for Ameerah, whose concept of "love, passion and aphrodisiac cooking" is deemed not "universally acceptable," according to Robert. She's sent home before ever seeing the inside of the bus, while the other eight finalists gather on board to begin the trip to their first destination.
In the midst of 100-plus degree F heat in Lake Las Vegas, the eight remaining finalists learn their first challenge: shop and cook for, plus decorate, a pop-up restaurant that will feed 250 people with a mere $500 budget in only six hours. "This is a lot harder than I thought it would be," Seonkyoung admits.
"I'm going to be able to bring the farm to the table as best I can," Patrick says. He's serving beef "cooked really nicely," according to Robert, who notices Patrick's especially high menu prices. Soon Patrick has more-important issues than food to contend with, however, as he's overcome by the high heat and experiences convulsions.
After Robert suggests that Johnathan rethink the "fine dining in a sports bar" concept, Johnathan has tweaked his restaurant and will open an "upscale sports bar" instead. His menu features "Steak au Poivre," but customers are forced to wait awhile for their food, which Robert ultimately notes is "simple but effective."
"For some reason I haven't been myself, and I've been a little bit worried and shaky," Bianca explains. She has a line of diners waiting to be served, as she's working on dishing out a chicken salad sandwich at her restaurant, "Home Sweet Home." Robert enjoys the sandwich but explains, "If you're not serving your customers, you're not making any money."
Along with Jan, Seonkyoung is the only other contestant without professional restaurant experience, and Robert is concerned with how she'll adapt in his high-pressure environment. When it comes to cooking, however, Seonkyoung is confident, explaining, "I'm amazing."
Kimmy has run a successful restaurant in the past, but today she struggles to not only serve customers quickly but also to turn out quality food. After tasting her take on "Pan-Asian cuisine," Robert finds Kimmy's saffron rice bland and her vegetable-filled lettuce cups "so salty," although her "Lychee Berry Smoothie" is pleasing.
Know Your Audience
"I feel very calm," Adam says. "Don't confuse my calmness for slowness." He is inspired by the heat outside to open a "cold food" restaurant with a menu of chilled dishes. Robert's wowed by Adam's "Shrimp Tostada," as he notes that it "looks and tastes great." He adds, "At this point in time, Adam could be the frontrunner in this race."
Rebounding After Struggle
Despite her earlier confidence, Seonkyoung finds it difficult to keep up with customer demand and runs into trouble with her dishes. "It's not good. I'm learning very fast, so hopefully I can catch up," she says. But after tasting her food, Robert is pleasantly surprised, explaining, "For somebody who has never cooked in a commercial kitchen, the food is really good, and I'm surprised at that."
After needing two attempts earlier to prove to Robert his passion and commitment to his restaurant, Eric opens "MF Tasty," serving Buffalo-style cauliflower and pulled pork sliders. The sandwich boasts "a little spice on the pork, which is really good, and it's cut by the sweetness of the apple," Robert says. "I think my personality definitely shined in my execution of my food," Eric notes.
First Place Victory
Despite his intolerance of the dry desert heat, Patrick has managed to make the most money in the group. "You did something really smart. You had a very high price point for your food," Robert tells him. "And the food lived up to the expectation of the guests to pay that money." Patrick has automatically earned a seat on the bus to the next destination.
Kimmy, Bianca and Johnathan have earned the least this week, and all three face potential elimination. After reviewing their performances, however, Robert grants Bianca and Johnathan second chances before ultimately telling Kimmy, "Your road ends here." She reflects after the competition: "Even though it was short-lived, it's still not the end for me. You can't put this flame out."
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