Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 4, 2013

'Food Court Wars' in TC?

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Officials aren’t talking about rumors that a network TV show may be in the works in Traverse City, following casting announcements seeking aspiring restauranteurs within 100 miles of the city.

A casting company for “Food Court Wars,” a Food Network show that pits teams of would-be food entrepreneurs against one another as they battle to win their own mall food court restaurant, posted casting calls for the show nationwide on Craigslist beginning in late summer. A more specific audition notice was posted on the mobile app Audition Rush Sept. 17:

“Do you have an idea for amazing, unique, or original cuisine for a food court restaurant? Or maybe you run an existing restaurant, and have always wanted to expand into a food court location?

“Think your idea has what it takes to be the most profitable, and beat out the competition?

“If so, we want to hear from you!”

The notice also specified it was looking for teams in Chula Vista, Calif., Hickory, N.C.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Kelso, Wash.; Lewisville, Texas; Newark, Calif.; Plano, Texas; Shreveport, La.; Sierra Vista, Ariz.; West Dundee, Ill. and Zanesville, Ohio.

Food Court Wars premiered in spring 2013 with noted chef Gordon Ramsey as executive producer. It features a different U.S. city each episode.

In each location, two teams — each made up of friends, family, couples or co-workers — open eateries at a local food court mall that offer fresh, region-specific menus like empanadas or shrimp and grits.

Through a set of challenges, the two-person teams test their concept, menu offerings and marketability, and run their outlet for a full day, feeding hungry shoppers. The team whose restaurant makes the most profit wins the restaurant space rent-free for a year — a prize worth up to $100,000.

Host Tyler Florence, a longtime chef and restaurant owner, helps the teams through their challenges, offering his advice on how to make their concept a success.

Sheila Conlin, president of the Los Angeles casting agency The Conlin Company, at first denied that the casting calls meant the show would film an episode in Traverse City with local contestants. A second call to the agency was not immediately returned.

A public relations representative for the Food Network also played it close to the vest.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t much we are able to share at this time as they are in production,” said Seth Hyman, public relations manager at the Food Network, in an e-mail. “I am more than happy to stay in touch, and as soon as we have an air date, I can get back to you with more info on premiere, contestant info, etc… .”

A representative for Grand Traverse Mall owner Rouse Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust headquartered in New York City, referred reporters to Hyman and said the Food Network’s public relations would answer all inquiries “about what’s going on.”