Nashvillian Competing on America's Next Great Restaurant



Eric Powell
A 28-year-old Nashville businessman is among the pack of 10 trying to impress Bobby Flay and three other judges on NBC's new show America's Next Great Restaurant, airing Sundays at 7 p.m. Each contestant must pitch an idea for a fast-casual chain restaurant. After several weeks of challenges and eliminations, the judges will select one concept to invest in. The winner will see his or her business launched with three restaurant locations — New York, Miami and Minneapolis.

Nashville's Eric Powell, who works in financial services and cooks for fun, has a concept called Meltworks, focusing on "grown-up grilled cheese sandwiches” — a familiar food elevated with fresh-baked bread, artisan cheeses and fresh vegetables and meats.

The judge/investors include mogul Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle, the restaurant that the show calls the model to inspire the budding entrepreneurs. The other two, Lorena Garcia and Curtis Stone, are both chefs and TV personalities.

The series debuted Sunday, winnowing 21 contestants to 10.

Powell got points for a well-prepared presentation. He also revealed an extra motivation to win — he and his wife were expecting a baby.

But it was a nail-biter for Powell — judges worried that great grilled cheeses might be too time-consuming for a fast-food business. He was the last of the 10 chosen and had to pass an additional challenge — making nearly 30 grilled sandwiches in 15 minutes.

A fascinating moment was when a stern-faced Flay said he was looking for contestants so passionate that they would "throw themselves under a bus" in their efforts to impress him. Let us hope it doesn't come to that.

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