JJ and James are the winners of BBC Two’s The Restaurant. In the final show they secured the dream prize of joining Raymond Blanc and his partners Sarah Willingham and David Moore in opening a new restaurant.
JJ and James said: “We’re over the moon to be beginning one of the greatest journeys of our lives.
“To be opening a restaurant with Raymond Blanc is a dream come true and we hope we can live up to his expectations and those of industry experts Sarah and David.
“We hope it will be an incredible partnership that will stand the test of time.”
The series began with nine couples competing for the opportunity of running their own restaurant. They faced culinary challenges from working in high street chains to organising a tea dance and holding a cookery master class – all the while dealing with the hard reality of running their own restaurants.
Over the weeks couples were eliminated until the final when JJ Goodman and James Hopkins went head to head with Christopher Hackett and Nathan Gooding to demonstrate their talents and skills, and shine in a catering challenge for a private dinner at Castle Hill – the home of the Earl and Countess of Arran.
The pairs had to source the food, prepare and dress the table and between them cook a six-course banquet.
Both worked tirelessly and had their share of triumphs and troubles.
But it was JJ and James who, over the series, proved to Raymond, Sarah and David that they were the couple to go into business with, with their concept of sharing food paired with cocktails.
This is the first time that the three experts have collaborated on the prize.
As Raymond addressed the final two couples, he said: “What I’ve seen in each of you is that resilience, that loveliness, that complete engagement and I love to see that.
“Of course I’ve seen weaknesses. I did expect it. I was looking for potential, I was not looking for a finished article. It takes sometimes 10 years to shape up a true professional.
“Your set of skills are so different and your concept is so different.”
However, JJ and James were announced as the winners as Raymond said: “One of you has got something, something which kept you consistently in the competition. It is the idea which truly excites you. And even in the final, concept saved you. JJ, James I’m opening a restaurant with you.”
Sarah said: “The concept of cocktails with food really excites all of us and will give their restaurant a point of difference on a tough high street. I can’t wait to get going.
“It’s a very difficult environment out there at the moment, with restaurants closing every day. We needed to find a couple with business sense, drive and bags of positivity.
“JJ and James were the contestants who remained positive, no matter what was thrown at them. They have a will to succeed that cannot be trained. Also, JJ makes the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted! With such an amazing palate I have total faith that in Raymond’s kitchen he will learn to cook food as good as he makes cocktails.”
David says: “JJ and James have a really great work ethic, they think on their feet, and they have a good understanding of business. All together we will be able to build on these skills to help them grow and succeed.”
The runners-up are best friends Chris Hackett and Nathan Gooding, whose concept was for fine-dining at affordable prices in their restaurant called Rags To Riches.
Chris and Nathan said: “This has been an amazing experience, we have learnt so much. It’s been a chapter of our lives that we will never forget. Now we are concentrating on the future and some amazing opportunities.”
“Chris and Nathan should go out with great pride,” said Raymond. “They are two very young people and yet they behaved with such maturity. I wish Chris and Nathan the best of luck.”