You’re already thinking it, aren’t you? Not another new cooking show on the BBC, with a typically hyperbolic name and featuring that bloke from First Dates.
But hold fire on the one-star reviews, because Million Pound Menu is actually rather tasty. It combines the juiciest bits from Dragons’ Den, The Apprentice and MasterChef to create something rather addictive and surprisingly fresh.
The premise is simple: 12 of the UK’s foodie entrepreneurs are each given a pop-up restaurant in Manchester. Over the course of three days, they must prove they can deliver not only amazing food and impeccable service, but also make sure their business plans and menus can impress some of the country’s most influential culinary figures.
If they can demonstrate that they have what it takes, one of these ten investors could hand them a life-changing sum of money that could launch their business and allow them to open their own restaurant.
If this bit sounds familiar, it’s because it’s essentially the format for Dragons’ Den. But instead of Peter and Deborah, the investors include Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star, co-founder of MEATLiquor Scott Collins and David Page – the man behind brands including Pizza Express, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Franco Manca.
And it gets intense: the chefs have to sit down for hour-long interviews in which they pour over their business plans and the investors weedle out weak profit margins or sums that don’t add up.
But, taking a pinch of MasterChef, it isn’t all about spreadsheets. There are also plenty of lingering shots of food, from tender grouse to mouth-watering deep-fried shrimp, as we see the chefs preparing their inviting dishes for scrutiny.
Episode one’s pop-up restaurants are Ewan Hutchinson’s seafood concept Shrimp Wreck, as well as Ruth Hansom and Emily Lambert’s brand Epoch. Their USP is that everything on the high-end menu is British, even down to the wine. They’re also aged 20 and 22.
First Dates maître d’ Fred Sirieix is on hand in both restaurants as they open to the public, and there are inevitable disasters. Chaos ensues as the serving staff aren’t given proper instructions, orders are mixed up, queues form at the door.
However, unlike during the food selling tasks on The Apprentice where you’re usually willing the cocky wotsits to fail in the name of car-crash TV, the entrepreneurs on Million Pound Menu have clearly poured their hearts and souls into their dishes and their businesses. You’re absolutely cheering them on throughout, meaning the end reveal as to whether they’ve done enough to get the dough is properly tense.
Like many of the show’s up-and-coming restaurants, Million Pound Menu is packed with potential. Hopefully, it gets off the ground.