Fred Sirieix on matchmaking for aspiring restaurant owners and investors in Million Pound Menu

First Dates’ charming maître d’ Fred Sirieix is used to helping couples find romance but now he’s trying to forge lasting relationships between the next generation of restaurant entrepreneurs and some uncompromising potential investors. Every episode of his six-part BBC2 series Million Pound Menu sees him oversee proceedings as two sets of budding restaurant owners get the chance to run their own trial pop-up establishment for three days in a bid to impress investors.

Here, Fred Sirieix tells TV Times more about his new show Million Pound Menu…

TV Times: What was the appeal of the show for you?

Fred Sirieix: “I’ve worked in the industry for over 25 years and I love meeting chefs and front of house staff and it’s brilliant seeing the next great restaurants being born. We show what it’s really like for people who want to open a restaurant and create an experience for the customer.”

TVT: How challenging was the process for the restaurant operators?

FS: “It was really tough. Everybody in the hospitality industry dreams of owning their own restaurant and they all worry about getting capital but we show it’s important you also meet the right investors and that you have a simple but scalable concept. It’s not just about great cooking, you need knowledge of HR, marketing and basic finance too. It’s also really hard for them to meet these savvy investors, which must be so daunting.”

Million Pound Menu

TVT What were the most unusual restaurant concepts you saw?

FS: “One did a menu based on bubble and squeak, which we don’t really have in France! That was brilliant, the food was great and it was a very slick operation. We also had one with desserts based on uncooked cookie dough. That was really interesting but after one tub, do you want another? That’s what investors were asking. But all will be revealed…”

TVT At the end, the participants wait in the empty restaurant for an hour to see whether or not an investor will return and make them an offer. Was that tense to sit through?

FS: “It was so nerve-racking seeing whether the investors would come back in; you’re at their mercy. I was so emotionally invested because these people have put everything on the line. They all came to win and give it their best shot.”

TVT In the first episode, two contestants are only in their early 20s, how would you have done on a show like this at their age?

FS: “Not very well! When I was 20 I was still at catering college. Our headteacher was like a general and all about discipline. But it was just his mission to make sure every student there got a job. I was always taught to learn from the best.”

Million Pound Menu airs from Thursday 17 May on BBC2 at 9pm