December 02, 2014 08:00 AM

Dale Berman/Bravo

Though he’s been long known for his acumen judging individual competitors on Top Chef, Tom Colicchio is turning his razor-sharp focus to restaurants in a new cooking show for Bravo.

The series will be called Best New Restaurant and premieres on Wednesday, January 21 (10 p.m ET). It will be modeled after executive producer Gordon Ramsay‘s U.K. show Ramsay’s Best Restaurant.

Colicchio will be joined by two advisors from the food world to help guide his decisions: Maggie Nemser, editor-in-chief of BlackboardEats.com and Jeffrey Zurofsky, co-founder of Colicchio’s ‘Wichcraft sandwich chain. The trio will visit 16 restaurants in New York City, Austin, Miami and Los Angeles “to determine who gives the best overall dining experience,” Colicchio explains in the video below.

Among the competitors are The Little Sparrow in Los Angeles (Colicchio is pictured above with the restaurant’s chef Eric Samaniego), The Pines in Brooklyn, Barlata Tapas Bar in Austin and Buns & Buns in Miami.

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The challenges begin with the restaurants divided into eight competing pairs, each with a common theme such as “battle of the burger” or “shared plates.” A source at Bravo shared the basic outline for the show:

First, the restaurants are subjected to a “Pressure Test,” in which 30 hungry diners descend on the restaurants without notice to see how the businesses handle the stress of a packed house. Next, Tom sends in two “Undercover Diners” wired with hidden cameras in order to get a patron’s perspective when the restaurants do not know they are being judged. Finally, the two paired-up restaurants come together in a neutral location and serve dinner for 30 VIP diners. At the end of each of the first eight episodes, Tom declares one restaurant the victor, and the establishments move on to the semifinals.

The semifinal rounds will feature the restaurants battling in two groups to open a pop-up restaurant … The grand finale pits the final two restaurants against each other in a head-to-head contest to put forward their best service possible for a group of 50 VIP diners at Tom’s restaurant Riverpark in New York City.

The winning restaurant will receive the chance to be featured in Bon Appetit as well as a $100,000 prize. For a taste of what’s to come, check out the trailer below for what looks like a gripping, fast-paced show. As Colicchio says to one restaurant team: “We’ll provide the chaos, you provide the control.”

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—Lexi Dwyer

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