We are featuring Q&As from our recent Food Republic Interview Lounge at the W Austin during the Austin Food & Wine Festival, including video excerpts of the sessions with host Richard Martin. Next up is festival co-founder and Texas chef/restaurateur Tim Love. 

Food Republic Lounge Tim Love.YOUTUBE from Food Republic on Vimeo.

Let’s talk about Restaurant Startup [Edit note: the title changed after our interview from the original Restaurant Kickstart]. What’s going on, you’re gonna be a celebrity chef?
No, the show is really cool. It’s kind of – the best way for me to describe it is if you take the restaurant wars version of what Top Chef and Shark Tank and put those two together. So myself and Joe Bastianich are the two investors, and we have two restaurant concepts that come in and compete.  They feed us, they pitch us on their idea and tell us how much money they’re looking for for their restaurant they wanna build. And then based on all that information, we decide which concept is more viable in our eyes. Which is the competition part of it. And then we give them $7,500 cash and they have to build a pop-up restaurant on Melrose in LA.

Oh wow.
They get two days to do that, and then we open to the public for two and a half hours, and we see how they operate, and how they work under pressure and we give ’em some tasks to do. And we look at how they accomplish those tasks and their branding and then they pitch us again in the end. And then Joe and I fight over the investment if it’s worthwhile. And then we invest real money. So it’s a very cool reality show because it is a TV show but it’s with real money: I’ve bought two concepts that are already in motion and that will open up this fall. So it’s cool, you get to make people’s dreams come true, and make a good investment at the same time. It’s like being able to take a look under the hood of a car before you buy it, you know? Pretty cool.

Opening a restaurant is probably not the savviest business investment for most people.
It’s horrific, actually.

It’s legendary for being one of the hardest businesses to make succeed. Why are you telling people that they should try to do it?
Well it’s not that we’re trying, people are going to do it regardless. They’re out looking for money, and when they come to people like Joe and I, the connections and opportunities we have around the country, from all the people we’ve met from doing food and wine festivals, or Joe’s got 38 restaurants worldwide, so what we’re doing is we’re trying to find new skill sets that we don’t necessarily have in our repertoire. And making an investment. We see 20 restaurant concepts over the course of the show, and that gets whittled down to 10. And then from that point on, we may invest in four or five or two or three, depending on who’s got their crap together. We’re not gonna invest in idiots, that doesn’t make it any fun either.

Did you see some pitches that were just like there’s no way this is gonna work?
Yeah. One hundred percent.

What were some of the ones that you thought were just terrible?
I can’t really talk about who it was but there were some really rough ones out there. And the greatest thing is though, even though we know it’s a restaurant concept that clearly is not gonna work, just to see people come in with that kind of passion about themselves is really – it’s the American dream. Everybody wants to be an entrepreneur and I think that’s a great thing. And if we can provide the opportunity to help them do that and find some great talent out there at the same time, everybody benefits.

Presented by our friends at the W Hotel Austin.