NBC orders 'United Plates of America'

Winner of reality competition will launch own restaurant chain

NBC has ordered an ambitious culinary competition series with a prize that is among the biggest in reality show history.

The network has greenlighted a program from "Top Chef" producers Magical Elves in which the grand-prize winner will launch his or her own chain of restaurants. The show's working title: "United Plates of America."

A group of would-be restaurateurs will compete to impress a panel of wealthy investors from the cooking and business world. Challenges will test competitors' savvy on such subjects as their restaurant's concept, menu and marketability and their ability to manage staff.

"We've done a lot of work in the culinary space, but there's a lot more to this subject than just cooking, and we're excited about expanding our creative energy," executive producer Jane Lipsitz said.

The show's winner will receive a restaurant chain that opens in four locations in various U.S. cities on the night of the show's season finale.

"This is the first time the culinary and business worlds have come together in a big event series where the prize is one of the largest in reality TV history," said NBC's executive vp of alternative Paul Telegdy. "Not only will viewers get to watch the competition unfold, they'll be able to eat at the winning restaurant immediately after the show's finale."

The show's panelists and premiere date will be announced later. Producers expect the investors will add a unique component to the show because it's their money that will fund the chain.

"It's a culinary competition that anybody can take part in," executive producer Dan Cutforth said. "All you need is a great idea for a restaurant."

The series order is one of several new productions for the Elves at NBC Universal networks. The producers signed an overall deal with the company after relinquishing their production duties on the hit series "Project Runway" when the show moved from Bravo to Lifetime.

Since, Lipsitz and Cutforth have launched "Top Chef" spinoff "Top Chef: Masters," which is shooting its second season for Bravo, and received a series order for another spinoff, "Top Chef: Just Desserts." They've also taken over production duties of Oxygen's "Dance Your Ass Off."