Mixologist JJ Goodman and his friend and business partner James Hopkins have been announced as the latest pair to open a restaurant with Raymond Blanc after winning the third series of the BBC Two show The Restaurant last night.
The pair, directors at the London Cocktail Club, beat eight other couples to the prize. They said they were 'over the moon' about the win and will now work with Blanc and business partners Sarah Willingham and David Moore to open a restaurant based around their concept of serving sharing dishes with cocktails.
"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," they said.
In last night's final Goodman and Hopkins went head to head with Christopher Hackett and Nathan Gooding to cater at 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.
Despite Goodman's lack of experience in the kitchen, Blanc saw the pair's potential and was attracted to their 'different concept'.
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. 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."
Willingham said she had been won over by Goodman and Hopkins' enthusiasm and positivity. "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," she said: "JJ and James were the contestants who remained positive, no matter what was thrown at them."
Last year's winners Michele English and Russell Clements opened their venture with Blanc - The Cheerful Soul at the Hare & Hounds in Marlow in June after spending five months training with the teams at Brasserie Blanc.