Thursday, March 12th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

“Family Restaurant” Disappointment

The third season of Food Network Canada’s Family Restaurant concluded tonight. Featuring the Quons, the family behind The Lingnan and Chicken for Lunch, the series documented the day-to-day challenges of running a restaurant, and some special milestones in the family’s life over the six month filming period.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Miles Quon back in December, prior to the debut of the show. Miles said that he wanted the show to shed some light on the chaos in the kitchen. “Customers might come in, sit down and say, ‘Why am I waiting so long for my food? What’s happening in there?’ I want them to see that side. Maybe give us a break.” Second, he thought the series was a good way to promote the restaurant – “We’ve been doing this for a long time in Edmonton. Too long to be unnoticed and under the radar. I really want to get our name out and drum up some excitement.” When asked whether or not the family changed their behaviour around the crew, he responded, “We’re just too busy [to act in front of the cameras] and we just like being ourselves.”

After watching all ten episodes, I think some of Miles’ objectives were achieved. I liked the behind-the-scenes shots of the kitchen, and seeing all of the energy and multi-tasking required. I also read in a recent issue of 24 Hours that the Lingnan was beyond busy, and that many of their regular customers were annoyed that they had to wait upwards of an hour for a table.

There were a lot of things that were less than impressive about this run of Family Restaurant, however. While I didn’t religiously tune into the previous series that centered on the Psalios family (they run the three Koutouki establishments around the city), when I did catch it on occasion, the episodes seemed to have an overarching plot that stretched over the season. The drama also seemed genuine, including the initiation of Yianni’s son-in-law into the family business, and Theo’s maturation and increasing responsibilities.

In comparison, I think my Dad said it best when he called this show “a cartoon”. Each member of the family seemed to play a role more akin to a sitcom than a documentary – Amy the overbearing matriarch; Kinman the easygoing and silent husband; Miles the bossy eldest son; Mandy the token daughter; and Marty the lazy foil to his brother. While Miles wasn’t cast as the “villain” per se, he did seem to exaggerate his actions and arguments, and a lot of his interactions didn’t appear to be genuine. Most problems that were introduced at the beginning of each episode (need for security, renovations, etc.) were resolved in the thirty minute time slot. And even the storylines that showed some promise – Mandy’s relationship with Ajit, Miles’s wedding in China – weren’t developed. Seriously – the crew travelled to China and all the audience was treated to was a brief scene in a noodle shop, a Fear Factor-esque market moment, and two quick chef trials. We also never found out when Miles’s wife Pan-Pan would be returning to Canada.

I was also hoping that Edmonton would be featured more prominently, though I understand that the primary focus was on the Quons and The Lingnan. It peeved me a little that the summer “food festival” was never once referred to by name.

In December, Miles said that the family had not yet been approached by the Network about a second season, though I assume that was because ratings would play a factor in that decision. Though I want the Family Restaurant lens to remain in Edmonton, I’m not sure another term with the Quons would be worth watching.

  • I must admit, the initial thrill of seeing Amy from Chicken for Lunch on TV wore off pretty quickly. I agree with you about the total lack of Edmonton promotion – kind of disappointing, especially when they didn’t have a strong storyline to compete with! I guess they did go to Alley Kat, but that’s about it.

  • Angel

    I’ve got to agree with you about the entire show. I was really excited to find out more about their time in China but a 30 minute episode felt more like a “coming up in the next few weeks” type of teaser as opposed to anything else. While I didn’t watch any of the seasons regularly I felt more attached to the Psalios family than I did the Quons. I was surprised by this since I knew of Chicken for Lunch but hadn’t really heard much of Koutouki restaurants.

    Do you have any ideas for another family for them to follow around? Do you think Edmontonian’s suggestions would be heard?

  • Dajana Fabjanovich

    Local suggestions (of another E-town resto family) may definitely be heard as the production company, Anaid Productions, is based in Edmonton.

    http://www.anaid.com/

  • Dajana Fabjanovich

    p.s. Referring to the Taste of Edmonton as the ‘food festival’ drove me nuts as well…and secondly, I’d also like to know the whereabouts of Pan-Pan!

  • I tried watching it, I really did. But I ultimately gave up because of the cartoon-y thing too. I’m not interested in watching stereotypes. The other Family Restaurant seasons were much better.

  • I guess my expectations were low. I thought it was ok, I mean, not the same as Koutouki seasons but I think bad editing and story lines are to blame here too.

  • Jim

    Although I only watched a few of the episodes (partly due to the relative lack of compelling story lines and entertainment value), it also seemed to me that most of the family (perhaps except for the father) hammed it up for the camera.

  • Scott

    “Seriously – the crew travelled to China and all the audience was treated to was a brief scene in a noodle shop, a Fear Factor-esque market moment, and two quick chef trials. We also never found out when Miles’s wife Pan-Pan would be returning to Canada.”

    You obviously missed an episode. The China trip was a two-episode arc, with the second focusing on the wedding itself and the parting of Miles and Pan Pan. A retraction is clearly in order here.

    And, having been around the restaurant a fair amount, I can say that the family’s on-screen personas seem pretty close to their everyday public personalities.

    BTW, for those who missed the news, the show won two prestigious Rockies at the Banff World Television Awards — Best Lifestyle/Information (beating out “Jamie’s Ministry of Food,” among other high-profile nominees), and then a festival Grand Prize for Best Entertainment Program. The Banff festival is one of the biggest annual industry events in the world, so the triumph is a big deal.

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  • Cecilia Floreancig

    I use to like family restraunt episodes.The episodes were a lot of fun to watch.
    Dinas wedding was very elaborate and not one i would want myself.But i was happy for the couple and wish them the best

  • Shaun

    I love this place and miss this show. Our entire company used to frequent this spot to get some great food, great service and definitely some good laughs. http://www.vancorpconstruction.com/