ITV’s newest daytime cookery competition arrives on screens next week, and after we were invited for a behind-the-scenes look at it, we can confirm it’s brutal - which is no surprise really, given that it’s the brainchild of a certain Gordon Ramsay.
Hosted by Fern Britton, each show sees nine keen home cooks going head-to-head in a studio-based environment, under the guidance of one of the UK’s top chefs.
Made up of three fast-paced rounds testing their cooking technique and knowledge of raw ingredients, the contestants will be looking to impress the guest judge, who will axe three of them at the end of each round.
The first sees them tested on their chopping skills against the clock, where they are judged on precision and presentation. In a harsh twist, the clock will also not stop if they cut themselves, which we’re told has happened a lot during filming.
“We had about 22 blue plasters used when Gordon was in the kitchen,” Fern reveals while backstage during filming. “The poor contestants have to step off set and get bound up very quickly.”
The next challenge sees them undertake a butchery or preparation challenge, with the chef choosing a protein for them to present.
The final three then have to cook a dish of their choice with the protein they have prepped, but only have 120 seconds to choose the ingredients they need to create their dish from a fully-stocked larder, after which they cannot change their minds.
When the 25 minutes is up, the judge gives their verdict on each dish, before three silver cloches are put in front of them. As they lift them up, one of them discovers £1000 underneath it, meaning they have been crowned a Culinary Genius.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, guest judge Phil Vickery says of the show: “What ‘Culinary Genius’ has done is bring back raw, basic cooking, and the knowledge and skills. Half the time there is so much rubbish talked about food.
“It’s good natured and there’s a lot to learn, as well as proper demonstrations from proper cooks who know what they’re talking about,” Fern explains. “There’s a lot of good chefs around but they haven’t got the depth of experience our team has got.”
And that team is rather impressive. As well as creating the format, Gordon will be judging the first week of episodes, followed by Rosemary Shrager and Jean Christophe Novelli.
Fern and chef husband Phil will also be reunited on-screen for the first time in eight years, when he steps into the ‘Culinary Genius’ kitchen. The pair met on classic cookery show ‘Ready Steady Cook’ during the 90s, before becoming regular fixtures on ‘This Morning’, where Phil continues as one of the resident chefs, after Fern quit her hosting role alongside Phillip Schofield in 2009.
“It’s been like having a date with each other,” Fern says of being back together on set. “He’s being nice to me and being charming and I think, ‘ooh, flirty boy’, so I like that.”
“She’s sharp, really sharp,” Phil adds. “You’ve got to have your wits about you. But she’s the ultimate professional and it’s great fun.”
And while the contestants were intimidated by having Gordon judging their food, it seems he makes a much less fearsome boss, as the couple claim to love working for him.
“He’s a pussycat,” Phil jokes.
“He’s fantastic,” Fern adds. “He swears obviously all the time, which is marvellous - I’m enjoying that a lot.”
But with this being daytime, we don’t think his bad language will somehow be making the edit.
‘Culinary Genius’ begins on Monday 17 April, airing weekdays at 3pm on ITV.
Check back next Monday for a full interview with Fern Britton and Phil Vickery.