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Emeril, Pennington Help TNT Get Set for 'On the Menu'

New York -- With his sixth cable series, Emeril Lagasse is adding a little spice to the cooking show format.

Competition show On the Menu will let viewers try the winning dishes made by everyday cooks, whose culinary creations will ultimately grace the menus at such restaurants as Chili’s, The Cheese Cake Factory and Emeril’s.

Premiering Friday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. on TNT, On the Menu features Lagasse as a cooking mentor and home makeover star Ty Pennington crossing genres as host. Mark Burnett and Dean Houser serve as executive producers of On the Menu, a One Three Media production.

Each of the 10 episodes will focus on creating a distinctive new menu item for one of the restaurant chains with Lagasse’s guided expertise. The restaurant challenges range from barbecue to modern fusion and more.

Along with getting their dish put on the menu of the select restaurant, the winners will also receive a $25,000 cash prize.  

“It’s really great to see these amateur cooks from all walks of life, just trying to really reach deep and make their dishes a little bit more special, whether it’s a dish of their grandmother’s, mom’s or aunt’s,” said Lagasse during an interview at the show's launch party at Soho House here on Sept. 23.

Pennington, famous for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Trading Spaces, does not plan on a permanent switch to kitchen-based reality shows. At the On the Menu premiere event, he expressed a love for food and what the show represents.

“This show is rooting for the underdog and that’s who these guys are; they’re not like the fancy chefs you see on TV,” he said. “It’s great to see people put their hearts and soul into something where they don’t just get a ribbon, they get put in on the menus where millions of people go to eat.”

The restaurant chains involved will keep the winning dish on the menu for 90 days in all locations, before deciding on whether they warrant longer placement.

“These restaurants are trying to move the bar in their restaurants and what they stand for,” said Lagasse. "They aren’t just cutting boxes and putting stuff in the oven either, there is a real process behind it and that was very refreshing to see. I was blown away by their quality standards and they take this very, very seriously.”

Starting with the knowledge of which eatery they will be cooking for, four contestants will compete in a set of elimination rounds on each episode. In round two, the three chosen cooks will create their original dish and serve it to the audience. A viewers' vote then decides who will go onto the final round.

“What’s awesome for me as a chef is to see the talent on the show, and to see the end results from these incredible organizations who have stepped up to the plate. It’s been an unbelievable, exciting time and a pleasure to work with everyone involved," said Lagasse.

The two remaining cooks then serve their dishes to Pennington, Lagasse and the restaurant’s representatives, who pick the winning creation.

TNT is offering a free cooking class with Pennington and Lagasse in Manhattan's Times Square the day before the series' premiere. Find out more and register here.

The Season 1 Restaurant Lineup is as Follows:

Chili’s –Friday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

Each cook must create an original burger for Chili’s.

Denny’s –Friday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

The competitors vie to make the best breakfast dish for Denny’s.

California Pizza Kitchen –Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

Each challenge to make a brand new pizza.

Planet Hollywood –Friday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

Contestants will make an original dessert.

Emeril’s Restaurant –Friday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

A new seafood dish will need to be made to impress the judges.

The Cheesecake Factory –Friday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

A new Asian dish will be the challenge for amateur cooks this episode.

Cabo Wabo/Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill –Friday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

They must amaze Sammy Hagar with new Mexican dishes for both restaurants.

Outback Steakhouse –Friday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

An all new steak sandwich will be in the works.

Buca di Beppo –Friday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

The best new pasta dish will be determined for Buca di Beppo.


Dickey’s Barbecue Pit –Friday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT)

The cooks are challenged to create a brand new barbeque dish.