5 Questions With Geoffrey Zakarian of 24 Hour Restaurant Battle by Sarah De Heer in Shows, May 12th, 2011
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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.