5 Questions With Geoffrey Zakarian of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle

by in Shows, May 12th, 2011

geoffrey zakarian

The second season of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle is in full swing, delivering an all-new set of contestants aspiring to open their own restaurant –- all in just one day.

We asked three of the judges to talk about the new season, the drama we can expect and advice they can share. Recently, Gabriella Gershenson gave us her advice from an editor’s standpoint. Today, we’re talking with Geoffrey Zakarian, chef of The Lambs Club at The Chatwal Hotel and The National in New York City.

Tune in tonight for a new episode of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle at 10pm/9c.

FN Dish: It’s a new season. What are some changes we can expect?

GZ: Because the show has become so popular, the level of competitors has risen, as well. More people want to compete and therefore the end products are much better.

FN Dish: Judging a team is never easy. What are some of the takeaway lessons you learned from last season?

GZ: It is important to see how they work together: the respect they show for each other, the competitors, the customers. I like to see how one emerges as the visionary or the leader. It doesn’t work when there is no symbiosis — you can see it clearly in the end result of the restaurant they create.

FN Dish: If you had to give the contestants just one piece of advice, what would it be?

GZ: Simplify. Drop two ideas that you had and focus on the two most discernible to the public.

FN Dish: You have opened many restaurants. Do you think you could do it in 24 hours? What would your strategy be?

GZ: I could definitely do it. Not having to deal with permits, recruiting, liquor license, etc — what a walk in the park. It would be great to just focus on the hospitality and food. As a professional restaurateur, there are a lot of elements that you have to deal with that take away time from the fun, creative aspects. This show strips away all of the hard responsibilities like paying rent and allows you to get at the core of why we are in this business in the first place.

FN Dish: As a chef and restaurateur, what are the three most critical things a chef must institute in his/her kitchen?

GZ: 1. Respect for others: Working as a team is crucial to the success of the restaurant.

2. Cleanliness: The kitchen and front-of-the-house should be sparkling. It should also be a nice environment to cook in. Make some effort in the back of the house, too.

3. Sense of urgency: The customer needs whatever you are working on five minutes ago. Hurry up!

Follow Geoffrey Zakarian on Twitter: @gzchef

Geoffrey Zakarian has presided over some of the country’s top kitchens over the past 25 years. He opened two New York City restaurants, Town and Country, both of which received three stars from The New York Times. In 2010, Geoffrey opened The Lambs Club at The Chatwal Hotel and The National in New York City.

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Comments (19)

  1. Sharon says:

    I'm enchanted by Geoffrey in every program in which he's a judge from 24 Hour Restaurant, Iron Chef America, to Chopped. He has a very charismatic approach to his judging methods and is always fair in his decisions.

  2. Mary says:

    You said the burgers should be med-rare. In NC they have to be cooked well at restaurants. It is a state law.

  3. Patricia Sixsmith says:

    I would think if the Burgers have to be cooked well done, I would question the quality of the meat !!! Just my opinion !

  4. Gio says:

    Five good answers. Very informative. I think you were born to be a judge!!!

  5. Alsteve says:

    He gave some very informative answers to these questions. I enjoy watching Geoffrey on the show, he is a very thorough judge and has good insights.

  6. DonS says:

    I just don't get it, I guess. Competition cooking is about as interesting as watching paint dry. I'm a senior citizen who cooks and I'll bet other seniors feel as I do. How about a poll? I find myself spending less and less time at the Food Network.

    • LydiaPeep says:

      I agree. Apparently there are a number of people who never learned how to cook and now the food we grew up with and have taken on to our children (who still ask for it) , is now a way to make money for cooks who think they have a 'New Wave'. What a joke.

      • luvcookin says:

        I'm right there with you Lydia! Rachael Ray's new "Week in a Day" program touts itself as being "something she wanted to create". My twins are 29 years old and when they were little, my friends and I would get together and do this sort of cooking while the dads watched the kids! Nothing new about it! And I know I'm in the minority on this one, but all of Paula Dean's recipes are NOT her original recipes. There are several that she has prepared both on air and in her cookbooks that I was preparing long before she ever came on the FN scene!

  7. LydiaPeep says:

    Could or would someone explain to me what a judge says that a meat has a gamey taste or a fish or seafood has a fishy flavor.. What is that?

    • luvcookin says:


      I'm not a professional cook, just a very long time home cook. Game meat can be soaked in milk or some other mixture to remove the "gamey" flavor so you don't feel like you are just butchering and cooking out in the woods. You should only taste the wonderful flavor of the meat. Fish and seafood should not have a strong fish smell when you purchase it. If it does, it is old. Fish and seafood should taste fresh, not like an uncleaned aquariam.(sp?) Does that help?

  8. Tina says:

    I have a problem with a an episode I saw recently. The restaurant was a BBQ place and the judges freaked out over them serving raw onions to them. This is very common where I am from. People eat (and love) raw onions and they are often served at restaurants as a sort of "relish tray", espeically at BBQ and fish places. I feel the judges should not criticize teams for bringing in something just because it may not be popular in NYC.

  9. Neil says:

    geesh! get scott conant completely OFF the foodnetwork, I refuse to watch any show he's on, he's so rude and doesn't know how to critique professionally, he really makes a bad name for the foodnetwork and if he is a employee of the foodnetwork, I wouldn't be surprised if someone files a harrassment suit against him for his cocky attitude, geoffrey isn't much better, remember he got CHOPPED!

    • deidre says:

      i don't get why people dislike Scott so much. I love when he judges Chopped and i love him on 24 Hr. Restaurant Battle. THese people are competing for money – and know they are going to be judged. The judges are doing their jobs.

  10. Carolina says:

    I saw an episode where the front of the house was decorated so well, they all commented on it. One of the things that impressed me was a display that had like a branch and some hanging glass spheres. Does anyone know which episode that was? and where I can watch it again. I have been up all night and cant find a site where I can watch all the episodes already passed.

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