Restaurants with great views are rarely very good. They are guided by the merits of their locations and ignore the other important principles of hospitality, such as attractive design and good food. If Gordon Ramsay, Chef’s Table and Queer Eye were to collide, it would look very much like Restaurants on the Edge, a new food and travel show on Netflix.
In each episode, designer Karin Bohn, chef Dennis Prescott and restaurant/cook Nick Liberato give a new face to a perfectly located but mediocre restaurant. Season 1 took them to St. Lucia, Austria, Hong Kong, Malta and Costa Rica, where each of them played a role in making the restaurant a success.
We spoke with the team from Restaurants on the Edge about their experiences with season 1.
There are so many bad restaurants in great places. How did you or the producers choose these six restaurants?
Bohn: Great question. The producers had a big part in it. We were specifically looking for restaurants with a great view, but needed help, and places that had terrible reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. We worked with some tourist boards, so we also received some local contributions.
Liberato: We had a wish list that I and the other executive producers had. Now that the first season is on, people send me photos of their restaurants from all over the world and ask me how they can be in the second season.
Dennis, you had to eat some pretty strange things on the show, especially in Hong Kong. What is the strangest thing you ever ate?
Prescott: I have the advantage of traveling full time and I eat things that are often challenging. Hong Kong was a hodgepodge of sights, sounds and tastes. Everything you can imagine is served on one floor. I ate snake soup with five different kinds of snakes in it. But the intentionality around sustainability was cool. If they use one animal, they use the whole animal. And I found that inspiring.
How did you come to choose these special places?
Bohn: It depended on who would cooperate and who was willing to do the show. Because it was a new show, we had a lot of people who were really nervous and hesitant.
Liberato: When you start a new show, there are a lot of people who didn’t know what it was and wanted to see the content or didn’t want to participate. So that was a struggle at the beginning.
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Were there any innkeepers who addressed the exhibition with “Thank you, but no thanks”?
Bohn: We actually had some people who didn’t want to be at the show. One of them withdrew at the last minute.
Karin, what are some of the most beautifully designed restaurants you have ever been to?
Bohn: I just came back from Los Angeles and I died when I was at the Proper Hotel. The lobby and lobby bar are fantastic. It is the pinnacle of design.
Which of the six restaurants you tried to improve was the most challenging in terms of your special role in the show?
Bohn: Definitely the restaurant in St. Lucia. We have built so much in that place. We even tore down the roof. Many of the workers didn’t speak English, and some of them built with tools like a rusty machete. And we had to finish it in a few days.
Liberato: For me it was Hong Kong. It was my first trip to Asia. The restaurant area was not really a restaurant, because there were only a few tables on the terrace. And it was raining heavily there at that time. It was uncomfortably humid. In the end we got a better understanding of the place and everything worked out fine. It takes someone who looks in from the outside to see how a place can be improved.
Prescott: St. Lucia was a challenge. It was a tiny kitchen with a staff of one person called Fluffy. He wanted to improve his mother’s recipes. And the challenge was the ingredients. It was really hard to get access. In Hong Kong it was a challenge to get to know ingredients that were unknown to me.
For people who are not familiar with a place – like travelers – are there any obvious signs that a restaurant will be mediocre before the food is put on the table?
Bohn: Whenever we looked at restaurants, one thing we had in common was that they were always empty. That is a hint. From a design point of view, they all looked unkempt and disorganized. The decoration hadn’t been touched for years. They were simply not inviting. For me it was great, because I had a lot