'America's Next Great Restaurant': It's not fast food, it's 'fast casual'

bobby-flay-americas-next-great-restaurant.jpgNBC's upcoming reality series, "America's Next Great Restaurant" isn't like other culinary competitions. The contestants aren't chefs so much as they are budding entrepreneurs. 

The winner gets three locations of their own national chain, funded by judges Bobby Flay, Steve Ells, Lorena Garcia and Curtis Stone. It sounds sounds a lot like they're promoting fast food, but don't let them hear you say that.

"There's a food revolution going on in this country," Ells, who founded Mexican chain Chipotle, tells press at the Television Critics Association press tour. "People are really concerned about what they're eating. This notion of a fast casual restaurant is different from fast food... Fast casual brings real food and real cooking and adds convenience."

Still seems like a bit of a stretch for Flay, but the celebrity chef maintains that the series is in line with his ideals. "I think simplicity is the best," he says, "and that's been proven over and over."

When asked specifically what chains he frequents, after screening a promo for the series that references the success of Subway, KFC and Chipotle, Flay seems a little less convincing. "We've all eaten in all of those places," he says, "and then you pick your favorites."   

The cast and producers say that, while nutrition and food integrity will be acknowledged in the competition, they're not trying to educate the competitors.

Do you think America is looking for more chain restaurants, or does the prize on "America's Next Great Restaurant" seem like a step in the wrong direction?
Photo/Video credit: Getty Images
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