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Friday, October 3, 2014

New Restaurant Concept Rival Merges Cooking Competitions With Fine Dining

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 8:34 AM

click to enlarge Rival's planned kitchen arena. - COURTESY OF RIVAL
  • Courtesy of Rival
  • Rival's planned kitchen arena.

There's a new restaurant concept in town, and no, it doesn't involve pop-ups, chef-grown produce, or unique craft cocktails. Rather than being influenced by the particular whims of a chef, Rival takes its cues from another equally demanding force: television.

The concept is the brainchild of restauranteur Stephen Walker and filmmaker and game developer Jason Akel, and it is a mashup of Iron Chef and a high-end restaurant. Rival matches up two producer-selected chefs each evening to "duel" in a kitchen arena. Both chefs will create a multi-course dinner to be served to audience members seated at tables surrounding the action. There will, of course, be plenty of monitors and cameras throughout the place, both to give a view of the action and to make the guests feels as though they are a part of a TV broadcast. Guests will rate their dishes and will ultimately land a verdict for the best dish of the night.

Rival plans to launch in San Francisco next spring with hopes of launching in other major cites (including New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Chicago) soon after. Once the entire network has launched, winning chefs will travel to different cities in a circuit, much like exhibition sports teams. For now, Rival plans to stream the live event online, but they would like to expand to a broadcast system in the future "so everyone can follow the action," says Walker.

The Rival team is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for improvements to the flagship San Francisco area. According to Walker, this campaign is "targeted at making the San Francisco experience sexier and more luxurious and giving our featured chefs access to the latest kitchen tools." Sexier, indeed. One glance at their planned arena, and it is evident that they'll need quite a bit of funds to pull it off.

click to enlarge Top Chef alumni Angelo Sosa, Jason Cichonski, and Louis Maldonado have all signed on to compete. - COURTESY OF RIVAL
  • Courtesy of Rival
  • Top Chef alumni Angelo Sosa, Jason Cichonski, and Louis Maldonado have all signed on to compete.

Not surprisingly, the producers have focused on familiar names for their first round of chefs. They've secured Top Chef alumnus and local favorite Louis Maldonado of Spoonbar in Healdsburg. His Top Chef competitor, Jason Cichonski, the uber-blonde with an attitude from Ela in Philly, will also make an appearance, along with season 7 competitor Angelo Sosa. According to their Kickstarter campaign, they've also secured over 100 chefs from the likes of The French Laundry, ACQUA, Michael Mina, and other "highly acclaimed" restaurants, luxury hotels, and resorts.

In addition to the celebrity chefs, Rival will have "a large, top-notch executive staff working on stage side-by-side with our featured chefs to craft guests' meals," says Walker. The team aims to produce a dining experience just like in a real restaurant, "from the linens to the attentive service."

One hopes that this team will keep the action moving quickly, as opposed to the slow, stop-and-go action of cooking shows — they've got to keep the magic alive for all of the cooking show addicts out there. The supporters featured on their Kickstarter video are all more excited about trying the food than they are watching the culinary action. As one supporter explains, "We watch a lot of cooking shows and we always talk about how tasty the food always looks." They better be very excited: tickets start at $199. 
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Kate Williams

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