With an unprecedented four shows for the Fox network — three this summer and another come fall — perhaps it’s appropriate that Gordon Ramsay is training for his first Ironman triathlon.
Ramsey virtually dominates the summer airspace, and his are just about the only returning broadcast reality shows to hold up relative to last year. “Hell’s Kitchen” is holding steady in its 10th season, while “Masterchef,” has seen a ratings boost of almost 20% vs. last year. On Aug. 13 his newest show, “Hotel Hell,” debuted, which will lead Ramsay fans into the sixth season of “Kitchen Nightmares,” premiering Sept. 28.
“I got a bit nervous when Fox announced in May that it’s going to be the summer of Gordon,” admits Ramsay, who’s in Los Angeles to put together a menu for his Fat Cow restaurant at the Grove in Los Angeles. “There’s always a question about you doing too much.” Indeed, his current three series dominate the Fox lineup during the week: “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef” and new entry “Hotel Hell.” Mike Darnell, prexy of Fox alternative programming, sees the back-to-back scheduling of the Ramsay shows, on Monday and Tuesday nights, as an experiment that has worked well.
“It’s summer. We don’t have a lot of else on the air. We have the Ramsay shows and ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ This is the first time we’ve tried this, and it’s working like a charm. I think that the audience likes both shows (the culinary combo of “Hell’s Kitchen” and “MasterChef”) very much, and that one show is sort of helping the other.”
With 25 restaurants, six TV shows airing in the U.S. and the U.K., and a hotel in London, Ramsay says he is more hands on than ever, thanks to a core team that has largely remained the same since 1998, such as Adeline Ramage Rooney, who’s also veep for Ramsay’s production company One Potato Two Potato.
The hunger for cooking shows in the U.S. and U.K. is a good thing for the Ramsay TV empire, and for Fox. Darnell says they don’t worry about re-inventing the concepts for the chef to take on, but that’s not to say they repeat themselves just because one thing works.
“?’Master Chef’s very different from ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’ ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ is very different than the other two. And I think because of that, it remains fresh, because you’re always seeing a new side of Gordon.”
Fox has picked up seasons 11 and 12 of “Hell’s Kitchen.” “Every form we’ve tried with him has worked,” Darnell says.
Despite Ramsay’s success in the foodie genre, “Hotel Hell” was a leap for him, and possibly Fox, but the star is quick to note, “When a network is behind you, they are committed 100%.”
His ambition has been to always push forward, and he asked himself how he could take it to the next level in the U.S. “I travel a lot,” he says. “Every time I go somewhere, I always try to think, what’s negative? How can I learn from how bad their performance is? We came up with this idea of ‘Hotel Nightmare,’ which became “Hotel Hell.”
Ramsay is mum on any new shows in development for Fox. His success on TV, he says, is because the network allows “me to become me. Some people think it’s slightly brash, harsh. Some people may think it’s arrogance. Honestly? You get what you see.”
With more than 1,700 people working for him across various platforms, Ramsay runs an empire, but the native Scot who came from humble beginnings says he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
“Do I think of myself as a brand?” Ramsay ponders. “If my mother was present, I would say, no, because if I sat around and told her that I was a brand, she’d give me a kick up the arse. But because she’s not here, I would say, yes.”