Review: Mystery Diners

Maeve's ResidualsThis week Food Network debuted a new pilot called Mystery Diners.  A pub owner in Los Angeles suspects that one of her bartenders might be over-pouring for customers, giving away too many free drinks and over-tipping himself. To find out, she calls in the Mystery Diners, who outfit the bar with hidden cameras and go in undercover to see what is really happening when the boss is away.

The show is in the same vein as Restaurant: Impossible and the new hit Chef Hunter in that a restaurant has a problem so Food Network swoops in to lend a hand.  Rather than being a makeover or intense job interview type show, Mystery Diners helps restauranteurs who fear they are being ripped off by their staff.  Using the latest in technology they show several instances where hidden cameras capture employees, providing poor customer service, theft and inappropriate behavior while on-duty.

The stings are conducted by the staff at BES (Business Evaluation Services) who are headquartered in Arroyo Grande, CA.  BES provides full-service secret shopper evaluation designed for businesses by a network of professionals. They evaluate a variety of customer experiences generating vital information necessary to quickly and effectively spot areas of superior performance and areas in need of special consideration.

Mystery Diners combines key elements of feel-good shows like Restaurant: Impossible with gotcha shows like To Catch a Predator.  It also helps demonstrate why 50% of new restaurants fail within two years.  Pure, unbridled thievery.

I love this concept.  I genuinely hope Food Network picks it up.  The restaurant industry needs this show to be a hit.  Just knowing that you might be exposed as a thief on national television would surely put a dent in the rampant pilferage of today’s restaurant employees and their “Occupy Wall Street” sense of entitlement.

UPDATE: Mystery Diners has been picked up by Food Network.  The first season premieres May 25th with a sneak peek on May 20th.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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