Behind the scenes of 'America's Next Great Restaurant'

  • Article by: LEE SVITAK DEAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2011 - 8:42 AM
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Jamawn Woods, winner of America's Next Great Restaurant.

• The show was filmed 10 months ago with alternate endings. At the final taping, none of the three finalists knew who had really won.

• Jamawn Woods found out two weeks ago that he was the winner. Until then, he was a second-shift forklift operator at Chrysler's assembly plant in Detroit and part-time caterer, making chicken wings and waffles for friends. This time span raises the question of how much the Soul Daddy menu reflects him and how much it was created by others. In an interview with writers, Woods said the menu was about 70 percent his from the competition.

• Bobby Flay, in a conference call to writers, said that the expectations of investors were that the winner would move to one of the cities where the three restaurants are located (Hollywood, New York City and the Twin Cities). Woods has not decided yet where he will land.

• So how much ownership does a part-owner, such as Woods, have? Both Woods and Flay were vague about the details, though Flay indicated earlier that the winner would be paid a salary and that his ownership percentage would be "substantial."

• Woods, 32, at one time played football for a team in Finland, where he was a middle linebacker. He weighs in at 255 pounds; this year will be the first he won't have time for football.

• Woods said he will be in Minneapolis next week. We'll post details online, as we hear them, at startribune.com/tabletalk and on Twitter @stribtaste #angr. All of our earlier blog items on the show can be found at startribune.com/nextgreat.

• Secrecy was elaborate regarding the winning concept. Many staff members were initially hired without knowledge of what restaurant they would be working for, and all signed confidentiality agreements. Even the general contractor of the Bloomington location, Brian Rich of Six One Two Construction, didn't know the details for much of the two-month-plus process of building the Mall of America restaurant, though he was aware of its connection to the TV show.

"The biggest challenge was with city officials and the health departments when you can't tell them who the owner is or what the menu is," Rich said. "But we have a longstanding relationship with the city of Bloomington. We all worked on a need-to-know basis." The building permit referred to the project as Restaurant X.

Rich was a fan of the show throughout its run. "I was rooting for Jamawn from the beginning."

LEE SVITAK DEAN

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