It all started with The Restaurant Show, long past anyone but chefs' and waiters' bedtimes, on ITV. It consisted, says its presenter Bruce Burgess six years later, of "me and a large hat and a cigar getting drunk with luminaries". Since then he's changed from being a "professional restaurant-goer", familiar with the long lunch and London restaurants, to making it his business to pat on the back and push into the limelight the hands that feed them. "We do more marketing for London restaurants than any other organisation by far," says 31-year-old Burgess. "It's not arrogant, it's just a fact.'

Having set up a TV company which is now the sixth-largest independent production company and the largest provider of new programmes to the Carlton Food Network, four years ago Burgess branched out and organised the first London Restaurant Awards, a televised black-tie glitz fest, which, not shy of the limelight himself, he originally hosted.

This year's event takes place on Monday, coinciding with another of Burgess's brainchildren, the first London Restaurant Week. This will promote eating out in the capital, with events, exhibitions, a restaurant run by participating chefs at the BBC Good Food Show, culminating in a street party in Soho on Sunday, 21 March.

Modelled, he says, on London Fashion Week, Burgess insists LRW isn't all his own work but a cooperative marketing effort by sponsors, PR people and the restaurants themselves, almost 200 of which are participating.

Although they benefited from the press coverage, big-heartedness towards restaurateurs wasn't the main motive behind the London Restaurant Awards either. Burgess started the event as "a profit centre, a business to make money" from sponsors and has since sold 50 per cent of it to Carlton Television. With a growing number of categories - from the Drambuie Award for Favourite Contemporary Restaurant Design to Campaign magazine's Award for Favourite Media Restaurant - the ceremony is anticipated with interest in the trade, and, beyond that, has done its bit to fuel the increasingly frenzied pace of eating out. "This year people will be surprised. It's not the same old faces. You want to make sure the winners aren't just the same restaurants in the centre of London," he assures.

And Burgess is creating another strand to his business empire. This will organise events, set up interactive marketing schemes and represent chefs. It's the next step in this cigar-smoking young showman's ambition to become the Mark McCormack of the restaurant world.

First, London Restaurant Week has to take off. Its originator is, typically, not thinking small. He hopes, "come the end of the week, everyone will say, `this was huge'"

For more information on London Restaurant Week, call 0171-872 5678.

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