FLORHAM PARK, NJ — While plenty of top chefs have made their marks at the helm of Morris County restaurant, Jesa Henneberry’s top work could come from anywhere: her home kitchen, a private venue or even as a consultant for various culinary establishments.
But the Florham Park resident dreams of taking another step in her career and opening her own restaurant. Henneberry got the chance on “Big Restaurant Bet,” a new Food Network program that premiers at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
In the new show, restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian looks to invest $250,000 for the “next rising star” in the culinary world. Henneberry and seven other chefs will have the chance to earn a contract within the Zakarian Hospitality Group in the six-episode showdown.
Contestants in televised competitions typically can’t spoil how they performed on the show until it airs. But Henneberry told Patch she loved the “Big Restaurant Bet” experience.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “I got to meet amazing chefs, and having the opportunity to share my story and my concept with Geoffrey and (his wife and business partner) Margaret (Zakarian) was just a huge opportunity.”
Henneberry has been in the culinary business for 11 years. Much of her work centers around private-chef services and aiding restaurants as a consultant with matters such as developing menus and recipes and training staff.
But Henneberry has a new challenge on her mind: opening her own eatery — a globally inspired Mexican restaurant at that. That’s where “Big Restaurant Bet” comes in.
Throughout the TV competition, aspiring restaurateurs must prove they can develop a restaurant and make it profitable. The chefs will face several real-world tests, including the creation of a full menu for their proposed eateries in a grand tasting to impress Zakarian and his food advisors, according to Food Network.
In another episode, chefs will tackle front-end restaurant challenges, taking turns helping guests. But the chefs don’t know that Zakarian filled the chefs with actors meant to cause havoc and see how competitors react on their worst day. Two chefs will advance to the finale in which they’ll operate their dream culinary concepts in a restaurant takeover, complete with overseeing staff and cooking for real patrons.
“I’ve really enjoyed the restaurant experience,” Henneberry said. “For me, it’s time to open a restaurant. That’s kind of become my passion and my goal for my next step.”
All episodes of “Big Restaurant Bet” will become available to stream weekly starting Tuesday on discovery+.
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