October 26, 2018

By Alpana Singh
Check, Please! host Alpana Singh on Randolph Street in Chicago
Check, Please! host Alpana Singh on Randolph Street in Chicago

“I heard you’re coming back. Is it true?” asked the woman standing behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store. I had been asked this question all summer long, and my response and enthusiasm never wavered. “Yes,” I told her, “and I’m so excited!”

Check, Please! has been an integral part of my life since taking over from Amanda Puck in Season 3 at the age of 26, shortly after passing my Master Sommelier exam. I went on to host the show for 10 seasons, and stepped down in 2012 as I prepared to open my first restaurant, The Boarding House. Two more restaurants would follow: Seven Lions on Michigan Avenue and Terra and Vine in Evanston. A decade of hosting a restaurant review show had taught me one important lesson when it came to running my own business, and that is the importance of hospitality. People go back to restaurants because of how they are made to feel: cherished and appreciated like a member of the family.

Alpana Singh on the Check, Please! set during her first show in 2003.

Three restaurants later, that lesson turned out to be vital to my success as a restaurateur, and I’ve learned many other important lessons since then. As I considered returning to Check, Please!, I was intrigued by the opportunity to host the show from this new perspective and to share these insights with viewers at home. I’m not interested in offering my own opinions but rather to offer tips, such as BYOB suggestions, dealing with allergies and dietary restrictions, or the best way to get a last-minute reservation. Advice that would help bridge the gap between restaurant and patron, and to help audiences have a better restaurant-going experience.

We spent the entire summer taping new episodes, and I can tell you, it’s definitely great to be back! It’s like returning to a former job that you really loved, but with more experience and wisdom behind you. While the much-beloved format of the show hasn’t changed – we’re still featuring honest restaurant reviews from three everyday Chicagoans – the digital and social worlds have transformed the way we engage with these places and experiences. We’re more likely to scope out menus and dishes online before visiting eateries, and to post photos of our experiences on social media once we’re there. This certainly wasn’t the case even five years ago.

Alpana Singh on the Check, Please! set filming season 18.

As a new feature, we have added some extra digital content this season! Each week, on WTTW’s Facebook page and website, series creator David Manilow and I take you behind the scenes of each episode and discuss in further detail certain elements of the show that we found particularly interesting. I hope you’ll check out these inside-the-episode videos, as we had a lot of fun doing them! We’re calling them “Check, Please! To Go.”

It’s going to be an exciting season filled with lots of new restaurants, unforgettable guests, and surprises for you to discover. Food opens a door to a conversation. It is how we share our culture, our story, and what we hold near and dear to our hearts. I believe that this has been the enduring legacy of Check, Please! It is a shared experience that has brought us all together, and I’m honored to be part of that conversation once again.