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NBC orders new restaurant-themed 'Chopping Block' reality series


By Christopher Rocchio, 03/18/2008 

NBC has a new reality series cooking that will see if couples can cut it as restaurateurs.

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The network has ordered The Chopping Block, a new Last Restaurant Standing-like reality competition series that will pit couples against one another for the opportunity to open their own eatery, Daily Variety reported Monday.

The Chopping Block will begin with eight couples who are split into two teams, with each given side-by-side Manhattan eating establishments, according to Variety

Each team will then participate in various challenges -- ranging from designing their space to publicizing their restaurant -- before a panel of yet-to-be-announced judges evaluates their efforts.

However it will be up to professional food critics to review each restaurant at the conclusion of each challenge, Variety reported, with one couple from the lowest-scoring eatery being eliminated each week.  The competition's winning couple will reportedly receive their own restaurant.

British chef Marco Pierre White -- who replaced Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay as the star of the original U.K. version of the Fox reality show when the U.K. version's third edition debuted last September -- will serve as The Chopping Block's culinary star, Variety reported.

"He's the original rock-and-roll chef," NBC executive Craig Plestis told Variety. "Food is his life, the core of his being. He won't accept second best from these contestants. And he made Gordon Ramsay cry, so he's going to make some of our people cry, too, I'm sure."

The Chopping Block is being produced by Hell's Kitchen co-producer Granada America, with David Barbour and Julian Cress serving as executive producers.  In addition, the series shares a title and a few creative details with a format developed by Cress and Barbour for Australia's Nine Network, according to Variety.

Dawn Airey, managing director of global content for Granada America's parent company ITV, told Variety that The Chopping Block is an example of "how a global content business should work."

"We have married some outstanding U.K. talent, nurtured by Natalka Znak of ITV Prods. in the U.K. and our own network, with an original format created by David Barbour and Julian Cress of our Los Angeles-based office, Granada America, to create what I am sure will be a globally successful format," she told Variety.

While Plestis told Variety that The Chopping Block will include some elements from its Australian counterpart, he added it is a new format.  For example, he said NBC's version will feature continuing storylines and weekly eliminations while the Australian show has self-contained episodes.

"The real novel twist is having couples," Plestis told Variety. "That's where you're going to see all the drama."

Last Restaurant Standing currently airs on BBC America, with nine couples competing in a series of challenges designed to see if they can run their own restaurant. At the end of each season, the winning team opens their own new restaurant, with financial and personal backing from the show's star, French-born restaurateur Raymond Blanc.

Last Restaurant Standing -- which originally aired in the U.K. on BBC Two under the title The Restaurant -- first premiered in the U.K. last August.  It's second season is scheduled to air there later this year.

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