Studio Ramsay Creative Chief on ‘Next Level Chef’s’ Post-Super Bowl Surprises and the ‘Exciting Experiment’ of Tubi’s Gordon-Less ‘Kitchen Commando’

For Studio Ramsay Global’s latest U.S. series, the Fox co-owned producer is trying something different: A show that doesn’t star Gordon Ramsay.

Hosted by White House chef and U.S. Army master sergeant chef Andre Rush, “Kitchen Commando” will launch its first episode on Fox’s ad-supported streamer Tubi on Sunday, the same day that Season 2 of Ramsay’s “Next Level Chef” debuts on Fox after the Super Bowl. “Kitchen Commando,” which will rollout new episodes weekly each Sunday, a first for Tubi, follows Rush as he takes on a new mission to save struggling restaurants and reignite their passion for the service industry.

The series is an “exciting experiment” for both Tubi and for Studio Ramsay Global, per Ramsay’s chief creative officer Lisa Edwards.

“One of the goals at Studio Ramsay is making shows without Gordon in them,” Edwards told Variety. “So we’re constantly looking at new talent that we can work with and Chef Andre is someone that we have had on our radar for a while and so we were building an idea around him. And he just is the ‘Kitchen Commando.’ He’s the living embodiment of that. So we made an idea around the fact that he’s a military chef, he served 23 years in the military, he’s a White House chef. We had this idea of him doing a boot camp and a military makeover around restaurants and it coincided around the time that we started talking to Tubi. They were moving into original content for unscripted, and the food and cooking space. So it was good timing that the two things came together. It’s a great vehicle for Tubi. Tubi has a large multicultural audience as well, and focusing on Andre and the restaurants that we’ve filmed in, featuring multiple demographics — it’s a perfect fit.”

As far as how to make a Studio Ramsay Global series a hit stateside without the draw of the iconic British chef himself, Edwards says that’s a necessary challenge her team has put a great deal of thought into overcoming.

“Developing shows outside of Gordon is obviously a huge strategic goal for the company. We can’t clone Gordon, we’ve tried, it’s not happening,” Edwards said. “One of the things we talk about at the studio a lot is, whether Gordon is in a show or not, that it has Gordon’s DNA in the program. And what I mean by that is, all our ideas are unexpected, they push boundaries, they have our wit and a sense of mischief. It’s about coming up with ideas that fit into that mold.”

Below, in conversation with Variety, Edwards teases a few surprises in store for the “Next Level Chef” post-Super Bowl Season 2 premiere.

How are you leaning into the Super Bowl-pegged timing for the launches of “Kitchen Commando” and “Next Level Chef” Season 2?

We haven’t leaned into the Super Bowl for “Kitchen Commando.” “Next Level Chef” makes a lot of sense, to have this fabulous slot. The Super Bowl is one of the the most high energy, amazing events of the year, and “Next Level Chef” is probably the toughest culinary gauntlet, full of high energy. It feels like a fantastic combination to have those two together. With “Kitchen Commando,” I think we’re taking advantage of the fact that Studio Ramsay is launching two shows around the same time. There’s the Gordon factor connecting them both. And Tubi is trying something different; they normally drop everything at the same time and “Kitchen Commando” is launching weekly, every Sunday. So I think it’s going to be an exciting experiment for them moving into the the cooking space.

What can you tease about “Next Level Chef” Season 2? Are there any changes to the format?

One of the things we like to do is push boundaries and make things bigger and better. And you have to remember we made Season 1 in a tent in Las Vegas in the middle of the pandemic. What we’ve aimed to do with Season 2 is make it bigger and better. [Judge] Nyesha [Arrington] has got a crown, the competition for Gordon and Richard [Blais] has ramped up some. And our cast is so amazing this year, that process was so much easier with so many people applying, but we have done some twists to the format. We’ve leaned into the sets. If you’re in the elimination, you start in the basement. If you made the best dish, you start on the top. So we’re working the set in the format a bit more. We’ve also introduced something called an immunity pin, which, in the very first episode, Gordon and Richard pick one chef from their teams each that they see the most potential in and they get an immunity pin, which they can use if they find themselves in an elimination. That means they either can either use the pin and save themselves and nominate someone else to go through or not. That puts a target on people’s backs and ramps the competition up even further.

What’s next for Studio Ramsay Global?

We also launched something called “Future Food Stars” in the U.K., which is in its second season and that’s coming to Fox this year, that will be called “Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars.” Gordon is not in the kitchen, not in his chef whites. It’s Gordon investing in food and drink businesses. He puts contenders through an assault course to win his investment, is how we kind of put it. We do have a couple of other series coming, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but one for a big streamer that’s not present, which we’re really, really excited about, one for a big streamer that’s not presented with Gordon, which we’re really, really excited about, which is also in the food space. In the U.K., we’re known for making a lot of shows without Gordon in it. “Kitchen Commando” is the first in the U.S. without Gordon in it, so it’s a big deal for us and we hope it’s just the tip of the iceberg and the start of lots more shows without him from Studio Ramsay Global.

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