The iconic chef, entrepreneur and TV personality known for cooking competition shows like Chef and Kitchen nightmares, Gordon Ramsay, owns restaurants around the world that have amassed 17 Michelin stars. It also owns television production companies that produce nearly 2,000 hours of programming annually. He has appeared in cooking competitions on FOX for two decades. In 2021, Ramsay struck a deal with FOX Entertainment Group and created Studio Ramsay Global, a global production enterprise whose goals include advancing and innovating culinary television shows and reaching viewers on multiple platforms. Ramsay talks about two such shows, Next level chef and Gordon Ramsay’s Food Starsand his passion for discovering and nurturing new talent.
TV FORMATS: How did Studio Ramsay and FOX Entertainment benefit from the creation of Studio Ramsay Global?
RAMSAY: The synergy behind fertility [nature] on FOX and his emphatic determination combined with my ambitious pursuit of excellence is a marriage made in heaven. I love the mass aspect. 20th Century Fox and I started in 2004. It’s almost like this relationship between Studio Ramsay Global and FOX, Rob Wade [CEO of FOX Entertainment] and Lachlan [Murdoch, CEO of Fox Corporation], was the beginning of a new chapter. I can’t believe the last two years have been as good as they have been. Running one of the most prolific media food production units is a dream come true. But the DNA is there with FOX – the collaboration, the sharing of aspirations and at the same time building what I would call disruptive creativity in the way we ruffle feathers, but all in the right way.
TV FORMATS: How have cooking shows evolved over the past two decades?
RAMSAY: When I started, there were no cooking shows on the mainstream networks. Everything was dominated by cables. Having a chance to break into the mainstream at 8:00 or 9:00 PM on network TV was a solid idea, but something I was incredibly adventurous about. Look at the scale of food shows now – the cultural aspect and what it means to delve into the deeper roots of how this journey began. We’re excited to host a buffet of incredibly talented culinary shows, unveiling some of the most prolific names to be launched in the industry. FOX allowed me to be myself. And I was incredibly lucky to be given that platform. Now, however, food is everywhere; if it’s not Tastemade, it’s Netflix with Chef’s table and then it is Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted on National Geographic and Disney+. There is something for everyone. In essence, it is at the forefront of everyone’s agenda. Somewhere down the line, you’ll be watching a food show at least once a week on network television.
TV FORMATS: Show like Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars it also combines the fun of a cooking competition with business insight.
RAMSAY: I started with nothing. I look at the 3,500 employees on the team, 75 restaurants and a production unit that serves nearly 2,000 hours of television a year worldwide. At the start of a business, you can be one of the most talented producers or chefs in the world, but if you can’t turn that into a positive EBITDA or some form of profitability, then you become the craziest because no one can connect to their dream . I can relate to the dream because of how I started this company and the numbers I need to achieve. It’s like anything in life; there is a price for that. I made the sacrifice and now I’ve been given the opportunity to share what that experience is like. Turning $1 into $5, $5 into $20, and $20 into $1,000 in the food world is a tough calling. I’m happy to bring that out and make it fun for the viewer.
TV FORMATS: How Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars come?
RAMSAY: from Next level chef to Chef to Hell’s Kitchen to Kitchen nightmares, I met an incredible talent with such aspirations. I went to the team and said there was an incredible explosion of creative ideas. We had to come back with something unique to bring these ideas to life. And Covid taught us a lot because the idea was collected and collected in lockdown. How do we get out of this pandemic with a mass effect that we can start looking at these new little small craft businesses that needed cash injections? The BBC and I explored the potential format. We did a pilot project, it was outstanding and the feedback was amazing. Then we went to FOX and said, Here are some examples from a microbrewery to the most amazing homemade pasta sauce—these businesses have scalability. It’s time to get that mainstream effect and give them the platform they deserve. It was a tough challenge because it wasn’t driven by drama; it was a creative-led doc, and FOX was very good at understanding the potential behind these businesses. As you saw in the finale, from Lan’s coffee to Caroline’s pizza sauce to Chris’ Smart Cups, these businesses are doing great, and it’s thanks to FOX.
TV FORMATS: How is it Next level chef elevated the cooking competition genre?
RAMSAY: Next level chef it was a chance to shine a light not only on professional chefs. i love Top boss and Hell’s Kitchenbut for me, Next level chef was this amazing arena of social media chefs, amateur chefs, those who were good but never had the confidence to go public, and the professional world. It was an amazing time to put this mix together and create an exciting buzz because most chefs in the US don’t like the intrusion of social media. I love the excitement on social media. Some of the best chefs are on these social media platforms. It is an art no different from a singing artist or a painter. Chefs on social media are artists; you can see the sublime techniques they use and the clever editing. This is a force to be reckoned with. I wanted to see this in amateur and professional competition because we can’t leave these guys behind; they currently have space, advertising, and following, whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram. We have 100 million followers across these three platforms. When we recently released a burger I made on social media, it got about 110 million views! Whether it’s ABC, NBC or FOX, if 5 million people watch a program, it’s a huge hit. So 105 million views of how I make a fucking burger – what does that mean? So, the evidence is there. The combination of excitement, a social media boom, amateurs playing catch-up and chefs needing to massage their egos with a social media platform – this was the premise for Next level chef. And so far it’s working.
TV FORMATS: As you mentioned, there are a lot of cooking competitions now. Did the casting need to evolve? How do you find the people who make the show so good?
RAMSAY: Casting is all about instilling confidence in that front room. I’m done with the huge turnout where we just focus [our casting] in Chicago, New York, Detroit or Miami. I turned the casting call upside down and said, Take away the formalities, stop the big entourage from moving into these cities and get these young kids to send me a video. Let me see what they have when they tell me about themselves within 60 seconds. And honestly, the excitement and the hundreds of thousands of videos, messages, and blogs we’ve gotten by spreading this network wider in the provinces has been incredible. This is the future of casting now. We don’t need them to show up in town and rehearse and rehearse. I want to invest in the character before I invest in the idea.
TV FORMATS: When it comes to your shows or restaurants, how important is honoring local cultures and communities?
RAMSAY: For me, honoring cultures and communities is honoring the beginning of this journey. I love this mix of ideas, this multicultural aspect. But beneath these layers is the beginning, this cultural aspect. I remember going to Thailand and showing a local chef who I thought knew how to make Pad Thai. I kid you not, he trained me and tore me to shreds in practice. And I was grateful for the feedback. That was decisive for me. In Indonesia I thought I knew how to make Rendang. But I went to Rendang’s birthplace and trained again. It’s not about what you know; how well you know it This was important to me, especially in India when I thought I had mastered a wonderful butter chicken. I went to the birthplace of Butter Chicken and then the training started again. The secret is to drop everything you know and become a disciple. And by becoming a student, I broaden the platform of my knowledge by expanding true cultural insight. This is extremely important. Uncharted has helped with this. Uncharted is the only show that allows me to be myself and brings me back to the classroom. I train and get beat but I come back for more.
TV FORMATS: How useful are YouTube, AVOD platforms like Tubi or FAST channels to help you reach your fans and grow your brands?
RAMSAY: These platforms are talent development divisions. I have these versatile platforms that I can release these programs on now, and they broaden the horizon for your fan base. I also look at the flip side of that as a talent pool where you don’t have the network demand to have a hit from day one. In terms of talent development, Andre Rush has been successful Kitchen Commando of Tubi. We have three more young, prolific foodie ideas in the pipeline at Tubi; really exciting stuff. It’s a good way to break ground, expose new talent, without a network breathing down your neck about results, percentages, shares and viewing figures. It is a welcome, multi-faceted platform that has a dual dimension for me. It’s a great way to uncover areas you could never reach, but also a platform for new talent.